Last week, my father and I walked along Wakefield Beach in Westmoreland County, Virginia. It’s a quiet strip of beach. Restful. Peaceful. Just a few hours walking along the shore is enough to help me refocus and put my frayed nerves back together. I don’t get to go as often as I like, but I was visiting my parents who live just a few miles away and it was a beautiful day .
As we were strolling along the shore, we came across a baby river turtle fighting the surf in its quest for deeper waters. Every time the waves would deposit him on shore, he promptly turned back and re-entered the water. In desperation and determination, those tiny little legs paddled fast and furious against the current. He didn’t want to be on shore. He wanted to be in the water. Past the rolling waves, past the tugging undertow, against the moving current. To get to the deeper calm he had to battle his own personal little storm.
Somehow, this visual has given me a fresh perspective for the storms of life. I’ve pondered it for days. I don’t want to be in the storm. I don’t like it. I don’t want to paddle my tiny little arms and legs until they’re spent with exhaustion. I don’t want to enter the surf again and again and again. Most of the time I just want God to get me out…relieve me…spare me. The storm isn’t my destination. I want my feet on solid ground, but now I realize that sometimes in life the storm is the destination.
God wants to stretch and strengthen my spiritual muscles. When my human faith struggles with things like doubt, God sends me into the storm. Fighting against the rolling waves, the constantly moving current and the undertow that threatens to pull me beneath the surface I gain a different perspective.
“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side…He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray…when evening came…the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night 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?”
And when they climbed in the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:22-32
We make a big deal about Peter taking his eyes off Jesus. About his lack of faith, his doubt. But I see something new here. I see something fresh. I see something that has changed my perspective.
Jesus purposely made His disciples get into the boat and push out to water, knowing the storm would come. He is Lord of the skies. Lord of the seas. Master of the wind and waves. Jesus knew His disciples needed fresh faith and He knows when I need it, too. He knows what causes me to doubt. He knows when I need to fight the wind and waves. Before He can take me to the other side, I have to face the storm.
I like Peter. I like his passion. His zeal. His honesty. “Lord,” he said, “if it is You, tell me to come to You on the water.”
IF. For all Peter’s passion and zeal, for all his faith in Jesus as the Son of God, for all he knew to be true about this Man he had pledged to follow, he still had doubts.
Sometimes, I am Peter.
Jesus still comes to the doubters of this world. He takes our little bit of faith and puts us out to sea. He sends the wind to stir the waters and meets us there because He’s not just the Wave-Maker. He’s also the Wave-Walker.
I want to be like Peter. Yes, he took his eyes off Jesus for a few seconds and began to sink, but he got out of the boat for crying-out-loud! He was the only one. The only one who asked Jesus to prove Himself. The only one who was honest in doubt, “Lord, increase my faith. Do the impossible.”
And Jesus did. Peter walked on water. So what if it was just a few steps. When his faith faltered and he began to sink, he still cried out to the only One he knew could save him. Peter’s little bit of faith really did save him.
Somehow I think Peter strengthened a few spiritual muscles in that storm. I need to do the same. I can even learn a lesson from the river turtle because as my father and I watched that baby turtle…all alone fighting the waves…he really did make it past the surf. In deeper waters he’ll grow bigger and stronger. One day he’ll be strong enough to swim all the way across the river to the other side.
Storms are a part of life, but I want to learn to ride out the storm with an ever-increasing faith. When threatening waves deposit me on shore and keep me from reaching the other side I want to turn and kick against the current with desperation and determination. When the storm turns fierce and I lose my courage I want to cry out, trusting and believing the Wave-Walker will reach out for me and lift me above angry waves because even when I doubt I still know He’s the only One who can save me.
Sometimes I think the storm is the real destination. Maybe the other side is the reward of weathering the storm. And who knows? When I push out to sea, past the rolling waves, past the moving current, past the tugging undertow, and face the storm with fresh perspective…who knows? I just might learn to do a little water-walking of my own…