In the Middle of a Miracle
"Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, 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?” Matthew 14:22-33
When Jesus invited Peter to walk on water - yes, to walk on water (just because we've heard this story a thousand times, let's not miss how crazy that sounds) - Peter responded without hesitation to step out of the boat in faith. He didn't turn around to the other disciples and ask for their opinion. He didn't grab something he could float on, "just in case". Jesus asked Peter to do something crazy - and Peter responded with a reckless immediacy that suggests an incredible strength of faith and complete trust in the One who was calling him.
What is crazy to me is the timing of Peter's doubt. You see, he had already started walking on water before he ever experienced any fear or hesitation. He didn't doubt when Jesus initially called him out onto the water. He didn't doubt as he swung one leg outside the boat to set his foot down on top of the stormy, dark, deep lake. He didn't doubt has he lowered himself onto the body of water that somehow solidified enough to carry his weight. He didn't doubt as he took his first step away from the safety of the boat - or his second, or third. He responded to Jesus' call without any prior consideration that 'perhaps this might not be a good idea', or 'how is this even possible?' - he trusted Jesus enough to take him at his word.
And yet it's in that moment - in the midst of a miracle - that Peter finally realizes that what is happening is crazy. That's what confuses me. Peter trusted Jesus enough to get out of the boat. Not only that, but Peter was personally experiencing the manifestation of God's power for himself with each step he took. But it is at that moment, as he is literally walking in the fullness of the power of God - that he begins to doubt.
Something went wrong for Peter as he was walking on water. Somewhere along the way, he forgot what he knew about Jesus. While he had enough confidence in Jesus' power to step out of the boat in the first place, eventually the reality of his circumstances began to cloud his memory and take center stage in his mind. At some point in his journey across the lake, Peter gained more confidence in the power of the wind and waves to sink him than in the power of Jesus to sustain him.
Often, we do the same thing. I think it's so easy to forget the miracle of where we are. No matter how mundane your story may feel, the fact that you are where you are is miraculous. No matter who you are - you've overcome something. You've grown through something. You've walked through pain and come out on the other side. You've battled giants that haven't taken you out. Sure, you may not be completely unscathed - but you're still breathing.
It's also easy to forget what God has already proven to us. We've experienced his grace, love, and provision throughout our lives - in ways big and small - yet in the face of situations that appear too big/scary/unknown, we suddenly get amnesia with what he's proven to us time and again. And it becomes so easy to lose sight of the thing that is right in front of us.
This is what happened with Peter. You see, he'd been around Jesus for a while at this point.
He had seen Jesus feed five thousand.
He had seen Jesus heal people.
He had seen Jesus cast out demons.
He had even seen Jesus raise a little girl back from the dead.
He knew what Jesus was capable of.
But in the face of his fear, he lost sight of that.
Imagine how differently this story would have played out if Peter had chosen to remember those miracle moments as he walked across the lake, rather than shifting his attention to the threat of the storm around him. Imagine if, as he took his next step onto the choppy and dark water, he recalled the look of astonishment and gratitude in the eyes of the father who's daughter had just been raised to life. And what if he remembered seeing a man who had been blind his entire life suddenly restored to sight, drinking in the world around him with eager wonder. What if he recalled the taste and the texture of the crusty bread and flaky fish that Jesus handed to him with a humored smile, somehow making lunch for five thousand stretch out from a few loaves and fish. I wonder what could have happened if Peter had chosen to focus on what he knew to be true about the power of God, rather than what he knew to be true about the power of the waves? While he had faith enough to get out of the boat, he allowed his faith to flag in the face of the storm. You see, it's not enough to have faith that moves you - you've also got to have faith that sustains you.
So when it comes to taking steps of faith in our lives, we must choose to remember what God has already proven to us, time and again. Store up a bank of miracles in your heart that you can refer to when you find your faith flagging. The opposite of distraction is attention - so what are you paying attention to? We know he is good. We know he is capable. We know he is all-powerful. So let's not let the "wind and waves" that come our way distract us from what we know to be true about our God. Let's fix our eyes on him so we do not lose heart.