EARLY in the year, the winds usually pick up around here, and by “pick up” I mean loosely pinned laundry items, patio furniture, small dogs …
Especially at the “top of the hill” where we live, the gale knows no buffer. It can be somewhat disconcerting to hear the relentless howling, to see the trees bent nearly horizontal in a heroic attempt to remain anchored to the ground.
A few weeks ago, I was wrestling with God over a significant work situation. Something reminded me of the winds that had so recently beaten against my house, and a visual story began to take shape in my mind. Many of you know the one. Jesus had just thanked God for a few trout and some dinner rolls and put on a feast that satisfied thousands. Everywhere he went, people were clawing for a piece of him. He was tired, spent. He sent his best friends out in a boat to cross the sea, which, I guess, must take a while in a dinghy, as Jesus had more than enough time to hike a mountain and chat with his Father.
Sometime while he was gone, a storm blew in, sending the disciples, as usual, cowering in the bottom of the boat and assuming distant apparitions to be ghosts.
We tend to focus on the last part of the story where Peter recognizes his friend and calls out, “Hey, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you on the water!” Jesus tells him to go for it, and Peter jumps out of the boat. A few steps into his watery trek, he takes his eyes off the Lord, focuses on the winds, and gets that “sinking” feeling in the pit of his stomach.
Of course, Jesus pulls him from the churning waves and sets his sorry self back in the dinghy. Then, when they’re all safe and sound inside the rocking boat, Jesus calms the storm and they have a heart-to-heart chat.
Yeah, we usually focus on that part, but my brain had stalled back at the notion that Jesus “made” them get in the boat and set out. My mind locked in on the ramifications of that fact:
He sent them.
He sent them into a storm.
He sent them into a storm he had to know was coming!
A friend pointed out that perhaps at least the sailor-disciples knew it was coming, too. Maybe—I’m sure they were trained to read the weather. But I figure it’s just as likely that the skies were clear when they departed, that Jesus got to the top of the hill and said, “Hey Dad, how ’bout we stir things up a bit and see what they do?”
Alrighty then, I thought. So what about this storm? Am I to accept that you sent us across this proverbial sea knowing full well what we were headed into?
Or that you may have stirred it up … on purpose?!
Oh, me of little faith.
I have no doubt God knew what was coming. I am certain that He was aware well in advance of the crisis that took us by surprise. I am confident he knew of all the angst, the struggle, the decisions that would have to be made, and all the fallout that would come afterward.
And still, he sent us into the squall.
So, what then? I have a choice.
I can cower in the bottom of the boat, or I can let the experience build my faith.
I can freeze in terror, or I can step out across the waters even while the storm yet threatens and watch God do his thing.
(This post originally published in our February 2015 newsletter.)