When it comes time for that summertime swim, are you one of those people that dives in fearlessly, head first or cannonball style, or do you take the more conservative approach – first dipping your big toe in the water, then entering slowly, tentatively, while holding your breath? The older we get, the less apt we are to dive fearlessly into anything in life. We like life on the pool deck, where it’s safe and dry. We count the costs, avoid risks, convincing ourselves that we have too much to lose.
In this week’s story from Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 14:22-33) we see Peter and the rest of the disciples in a boat, without Jesus, in the middle of a violent storm. When Jesus walks out to the disciples and says, “Don’t be afraid, it is I,” Peter cries out, “If it really is you, Lord, command me to walk out on the water to you.” In other words, “Give me a sign, and I will trust you.”
There is no way to get through life – and no real way to follow the path of Jesus – without trusting (in the absence of proof) the voice of God that speaks in the midst of every storm. How do we know if it’s God’s voice that we hear, or if it’s simply our own wishful thinking? Is it too much to ask God for a sign, for evidence, before we act on our faith?
We all know what it’s like to be battered by the waves and winds, wondering if we can trust the voice of God, who says, “Don’t be afraid.” But trusting the voice of God does not mean that we will simply become more efficient at bailing water or rowing against the current; in the storms of this world, we are called as Christians to be more than survivors. Like Peter, there comes a time when we are called to walk on water – to do the seemingly impossible, with courage and audacity.
“A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear;
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.”
– W. H. Auden