What keeps me from walking on water

Approx. read time: 3:00 min.

“Peter is walking on the water,” by Lluís Borrassà, Wikimedia Commons


Lately I’ve had a hard time focusing. 

Like most everyone else, I get distracted with “being busy.”

“Being busy” is our culture’s code for how we prove our worth, even if only to ourselves.

Being busy is easy.

Being focused, I discover, is a discipline. 

It means I must intentionally choose to pay attention to the one thing that matters most—especially when I am bombarded by distractions (oftentimes electronic) and by interruptions which may or may not demand my personal and immediate response.

Something more intentional is asked of me.

Something more intentional is asked of you, too.

What else, after all, was Jesus teaching (and Peter trying hard to learn) in that scene late at night on the stormy sea?

You may know the story. Late in the night the disciples, exhausted from feeding a hungry crowd of five thousand, are adrift in a squall on the lake. 

Emerging through the dark night, Jesus unexpectedly appears and walks toward them across the waves. 

“Lord,” Peter cries out, “if it is really you, call me to come to you across the water!” 

And Jesus says … “Come!”

Peter hoists himself out of the boat, fixes his eyes on the Lord, and yes, begins to walk toward him.

If it is really you … 

How often in my own life I cry out, Call me to come to you! Especially across these uncertain surfaces of my life!

What invitation do I think I am waiting for?

In that late-night stormy-sea passage in Matthew 14, Jesus’ one-word invitation to Peter is, simply, Come! 

Peter rightly could have looked at the waves, then looked at his Lord, and replied, Are you serious? 

But Jesus was not calling Peter into a magic moment, nor was he setting Peter up for failure. 

Jesus’ one-word invitation always means this: Let go your grip, move from the secure center of the boat, the secure center of your life as you imagine it; hoist yourself as gracefully as you can over the edge, and walk toward the One who alone has power to sustain you.

This, quite simply, is the invitation.

Matthew tells us that for a brief moment Peter actually trusts that the One who calls him will indeed sustain him. 

But distracted by the storm and overcome by fear, when Peter takes his eyes off the Lord he foolishly assumes that the danger of getting in over his head is greater than the invitation itself.

Jesus speaks to you and to me the same invitation he spoke to Peter. 

“Come!” he says, precisely in the most complex moment. 

Does Jesus sometimes get his timing off? Does he sometimes ask impossible things of us, forgetting all the obvious reasons why we cannot possibly respond? 

Or is it we who do not grasp the exquisite timing of the Lord’s invitation, for all the obstacles and distractions and interruptions that make waves in our lives?

Honestly, I need to discern the Lord’s invitation often. I know that I must let go my own grandiose plans, and defend myself from the thousand distractions that would pull me off mission. 

I know that I must actively defend that mission, and intentionally remove whatever blocks my view of the One who calls me.

Most important, I know that I need a space where I can actually hear and receive the Lord’s invitation, because it is my space of challenge and growth. 

The point is not to avoid the waves. Those waves are part of my life! 

The point is to keep my eyes, my ears, my heart, focused on the One who transcends the waves, the One who calls me by my name, and invites me to join him where he is, at the fierce edge of every wave.

Let me know your thoughts.

This reflection is adapted from my piece “What keeps me from walking on water” in my book Conformed to Christ: Discoveries in the Maturing Christ-centered Life. It’s the perfect summer read, with short essays and questions for thought and conversation. Waiting for you here, along with other great reads.

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Be well. Live in peace. Love one another.

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