Read Matthew 14:22-33
What do you think sounds worse: seeing a ghost or drowning? Because both almost happen to Peter this week.
I have to go with drowning even though I’ve never experienced it myself. Well that’s not true totally. I have experienced a sort of drowning in my life. It was more of a feeling though than an actual experience of being submerged underwater.
Depression feels like you’re drowning or struggling to keep your head above water. Anyone who has ever suffered from depression knows how hard it is to do even the smallest, most basic tasks like getting out of bed, taking a shower and doing your laundry. Depression chokes the joy from life like drowning chokes the air from your lungs.
I picked this scripture this week because I can relate to Peter at this point in my life, and perhaps you can too. Peter is in the boat with some other disciples, and when he realizes it is Jesus walking towards him out on the water, he wants to walk on the water too. “Lord,” he says, “if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14: 28).
Jesus invites Peter, saying, “Come.” I can imagine Peter joyfully jumping out of the boat, excited because he is a part of a miracle.
This is kind of how I felt when I received the call to come to Park Avenue UMC. Oh, how exciting, I thought. I get to go to the big city and work at a beautiful church. I took a leap of faith and jumped out of the boat I was in.
But very quickly after arriving here, I became afraid. Of what, you may be wondering. It was the simple things like figuring out how to ride my bike to work or take the subway from the upper west side to the lower east side. And I can’t even tell you how much stress I felt initially over who was going to take care of my dog while I was at work. The first Sunday before church I woke up with my heart beating in my throat, and I wasn’t even preaching. Transitions are hard, but I’m glad to say that only one week later, my fear is starting to diminish.
Peter also became afraid very quickly. He jumped out of the boat all excited, but scripture says that when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened and began to sink.
This image of the wind blowing, and Peter noticing the wind blowing, getting afraid and starting to sink is a powerful image. I imagine the waves on the water, and Peter’s hair whipping all around. And then there is that loud noise that wind makes… There is chaos on the sea in that moment that Peter starts to sink.
For Peter, the wind is what made him afraid, and so I can’t help but to think about, what is the wind in my life? And what is the wind in your life? What is it that is blowing through your world hard and strong, perhaps making you doubt, making you afraid, making you sink? The wind can be an obstacle in your path. The wind can be a situation that you can’t quite get a handle on. The wind can be a person who puts you on edge. The wind can be anything that makes you doubt yourself or God.
Adjusting to living in New York City is my wind right now. But I can’t let this awesome place overwhelm me anymore than Jesus would have let Peter sink right before his eyes. God wants us to walk on water with him. God wants us to be successful and confident even in the face of fear and danger because God has plans for our good and not for our harm.
When Peter began to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Why do we doubt? Why do we fear?
I’ll tell you a story. My friend Lisa worked very hard to get her PhD, and then got a job as a professor at a Catholic university. She was one of the youngest people on staff and the only Protestant. Her first year teaching she was filled with fear about what other members of the staff thought of her and what her students thought of her. After one student came into her office and criticized her because of the grade she had given him, she really began to doubt herself. She began to wonder if she was doing a good job teaching… She wondered if she was she being too hard on her students…
Much of the fear and doubt Lisa was experiencing, and much of the fear and doubt all of us experience, is a product of our own minds and our own insecurities. The threats are more mental than physical. The storms swirl up in our thoughts and rock the boat that is our lives.
But trust in God, trust that Christ will save us, can prevent the storms from getting too big and too debilitating. Often, we just have to give it time. Even in your darkest moments, use your faith to keep you going. God will help us. God is helping us. You will not sink even if the wind is whipping about you.
After about a year at the university, Lisa started to feel more confident in herself. She received positive feedback from students and other professors, and this helped her to believe that being a professor was truly the task God had called her too. But it took time.
“Patient Trust” by Teilhard de Chardin
Above all, trust in the slow work of God
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages,
We are impatient of being on the way to do something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
My friends, let us not be afraid because of the wind. Let us trust in God to hold us up. There is a song called, “Be Still, My Soul” that says: Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; leave to your God to order and provide; in every change God faithful will remain…Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know the Christ who ruled them while he dwelt below.