Something special happens inside of me when I stand in the ocean’s swirling waters and gaze into the endless horizon. Often, the calm warmth of the blue water calms me as it laps gently at my feet. Sometimes the waves crash into the beach with determination and power and it reaches deep inside of me mirroring the inner turmoil that longs to crash to the surface. In the turbulent waters, when life’s problems build up and threaten to overcome my spirit, it is in these dancing waters, I hear the words of Jesus, “Peace! Be still!” (Mk. 4:39).
In Matthew’s gospel story, we find the disciples in another boat crossing the sea, this time without their teacher. Jesus told them to go ahead while he spent some time in prayer. Once again a storm raged and the fishermen began to panic that their boat would sink. In the midst of the storm, they suddenly saw their Lord walking towards them on top of the water. Now I think that is a really cool trick. Anyway, the impulsive Peter cried out that he too wanted to walk on the water. I love Peter for his impetuous nature and his willingness to step into the raging water. With Jesus’ encouragement, Peter took a step of faith into the swirling stormy water. As long as he kept his eyes focused on Jesus he was able to walk on the water. Someone should have told Peter not to look down because as soon as he did he began to sink. Of course Jesus reached out to save him and got him safely into the boat. It is then that the disciples recognized him as the “Son of God” (Matt. 14:33).
I love these stories not only because they show us that Jesus loved the water and was comfortable in the turbulence of the mighty sea, but they also give me hope and comfort. The image of the water, whether calm or angry, can be a metaphor for life. Sometimes our lives are calm and serene and we feel blessed. Then just like the unexpected storm on the Sea of Galilee, wave after wave of heartache, illness, violence, hurt, and fear rage against us. Our boats or should I say lives, take on more and more water and threaten to sink us. It is in these moments that we too try to shake Jesus awake and yell at him to do something. In both of the gospel stories, Jesus questioned them about their lack of faith. Did the disciples really lack faith when they feared that their boat would sink? As I compare these stories, I think the disciples had great faith. When they feared, they turned to the one person they knew could save them, Jesus. Yes, the fishermen doubted when they tried to manage the storm on their own and Peter’s doubt and fear caused him to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus. But still, the disciples turned to Jesus and Peter cried out to him with, “Lord save me!’ (Matt 14:30).
There are moments in my life when trusting and relying on Jesus comes naturally and everything is good. But when I sit in the midst of turmoil and anxiety, I slowly begin to doubt and fear and start to sink because I have taken my eyes off Jesus. The hope and comfort written in these two stories, is that Jesus is with me when I am sailing in calm clear waters and more importantly, Jesus is with me when unexpected storms arise. Like the impulsive disciple Peter, I am comforted knowing that when I step into the water with courage and begin to doubt, causing me to sink, Jesus is right there with his hand open and ready when I cry out, “Lord, save me.”