One of my favourite faith stories is from the Bible is found in Matthew chapter 14, verses 22–33 and tells the story of Peter walking on water. Basically it goes like this:
Jesus went up a mountain to pray after a busy and tiring time. He had sent his disciples across the lake on their boat at night. Late in the night, when the disciples were already far from land, a strong wind started to blow, and large waves started to crash.
Just before dawn, while it was still dark, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake (just casually). When his disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. 'It's a ghost!' they cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them, and he must have yelled to be heard over the waves and wind: 'Don't be afraid, take courage, it is I!'
'Lord, if it's you', Peter replied, 'tell me to come to you on the water'.
'Come' Jesus said.
Then, and this is the amazing thing, Peter got down out of the boat, and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind and the waves, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me!'
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. 'You of little faith', he said, 'why did you doubt?'
When they climbed into the boat the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshipped Jesus, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God'.
This story has probably led to coining of the phrase 'step of faith'. Jesus, as usual, does a freaky thing and just walks out on the stormy lake. When Peter sees Jesus he then does a crazy thing, and I have no idea what was going through his head: he decides to step out on the water.
I assume Peter thinks this is cool, walking on a stormy lake in the middle of the night, I must admit I think it is pretty cool—it is certainly a step of faith.
So Peter steps out and walks on water (just casually).
But there was a problem
The problem happens when he realises that he is doing something, you know, that is kind of impossible. He was trying to do something that he couldn't do.
It is a funny thing when you catch yourself actually doing something that you thought was impossible. All of a sudden you panic and think of all the things that you need to do to achieve this impossible thing. Rapidly you realise one thing: that you can't do it, and you are sinking.
I have no idea what Peter's plan was I assume he would have registered that what he was doing at that moment, was not a normal task. Chopping potatoes, for instance, is a normal act, walking on water is not. I assumed that Peter already saw his step out onto the water as a step of faith.
In my own journey I have found myself in places where I both have no idea what I am doing, and am sinking. While sinking I try to figure out what I am going to do about it. As I write this I cannot sleep because I am wondering how to walk on water. I am trying to figure out how to do things that I have no natural power of doing. The feeling of sinking is both real, and terrifying.
As a kid growing up I pictured Peter walking with Jesus on a calm lake on a sunny day. The thing is that Peter was not walking with Jesus on a calm lake in the sunlight. He had stepped out into a storm in the dead of night, far from land, in attempts to move toward something that a moment before he had thought was a ghost!
And moments after he had stepped out, he found himself sinking in the wind, and waves, during the dead of night. The thing is, for a few moments, Peter actually walked on water. It was only as he tried to do it, that he couldn't.
I am reminded of Jesus' invitation to 'come' and step out into something that I do not have the ability to do, and I am content in this. It is OK that I cannot walk on water. It is impossible for me to actually develop the ability to walk on water.
Walking on water is off the cards for me. I do, however, have the ability to continue to follow Jesus, and step out into things he has invited me to.
In the middle of the night, as I feel like I am sinking, struggling trying to do an impossible thing, I feel like God is saying 'you won't sink, you could never even float in the first place'.
Humbled and happy, I now go to sleep, somewhat in awe of God.
Jared Diprose is a self-employed Artisan and co-director of the Mosaic Workshop. He has a degree in theology, and believes that words shape worlds. He is married to Sierra. You can see some of his work at www.facebook.com/jareddiprosecreative and you can check out The Mosaic Workshop at www.facebook.com/workshopmosaic
Jared Diprose's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jared-diprose.html