So often life has felt, to me, like a lengthy exercise in treading water. Treading water is tiring. It’s about surviving, keeping your head above the water. You’re not trying to go anywhere when you’re treading; you’re just trying to maintain your position. Sometimes that’s how I feel like I’m moving through life, just keeping my head above the waters. When I was a working mommy this was oh-so much more true. Now juggling two busy kiddos, one with special needs, the pace is slower, different, but I still feel everyday the need to persevere, often tired from treading water.
As I was studying the story in which Peter walks on water, I had some realizations about the way we do this life, this “treading exercise,” if you will.
Jesus has sent his disciples ahead of him, perhaps knowingly into stormy waters. We are foolish if we think that Jesus has not foreseen the storm we are in. He is fully aware of where we are, even before we got there. And in this instance for the disciples, Jesus is not physically present with them to save their bacon like he was a few chapters ago when he told the wind and waves, “Quiet. Be still.” They are sent out on their own, to be buffeted about by the waves. And it’s terrifying to them. Our storms are terrifying aren’t they? Why did Jesus send us here? Where is he in the midst of this crazy wind, these wild waves?
But Jesus comes. Oh yes, he comes, because he sees exactly where we are. Exactly. And he’s walking on top of that water. If you’ve seen a stormy sea, you know it’s not the sparkling, pristine, calm, flat sea that is often in illustrations of this story. No, the wind, Scripture says, was wild. But Jesus is walking on that water. Of course, he’s Jesus. He can do that.
But then Jesus tells Peter, in the midst of the stormy winds, “come out of that boat and walk on the water to me.”
“Woah, Jesus! Do what? I couldn’t even safely swim through this water, let alone walk on top of it!” Oh, no, wait, Peter doesn’t say that. He gets out of the boat. A brave soul. That’s what I want to say when Jesus calls me into the storm…
Maybe, like me, you sometimes feel like you are nearly drowning in the storms of your life. Maybe your trial is so difficult, your sorrow is so deep, your anger is so severe that you can barely keep yourself going. Walking on the water seems beyond unattainable. Treading is just all you can muster.
I want you to think with me about what Jesus asks of Peter here. He tells him to get on out of that boat and walk on the water, on top of it. Jesus doesn’t say, you can swim through this. He doesn’t say, just tread water till I get there. He doesn’t say, just keep your nose above the surface. He says walk on that water, Peter. Whatever your storm may be, Jesus can empower you in the midst of it. Life, these storms, it’s not about just treading water, just maintaining, being safe, staying alive, surviving. No, it’s about finding the power of Jesus to walk on top of that storm.
I want to do more than tread water. I want to stare straight at Jesus and walk on top of that water, stormy sea or not. Because I trust him. And I know he’s there with me in that storm. I’m done treading; I’m ready to walk.