Peter answered Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
I consider it subtle testimony to the decline of civilization that our litigious ways have nearly eradicated that once hallowed fixture of neighborhood pools: the high-dive. The dangling plank twelve feet in the air. The invitation to momentarily defy gravity, and then to feel what Icarus felt but without the fear. How many summer nights did my friends and I climb the aquamarine ladder and put unrelenting strain on the fiberglass board with the peeling grip tape abrading our already swollen, wrinkled toes!
It was more than recreation. It was liberation. We may have been a more tentative type affixed to terra firma, but give us the freedom to hurl ourselves into the ether without worry of what lie beneath and something between heroic and maniacal would surface in us.
So the high-dive made its own small contribution to our maturing: we who at first clung tightly to the side of the pool, fearing the deeper water, began to imagine what flight might feel like—until we at last ventured tentative steps skyward, having to take it on faith that, though we would fall and be swallowed by the blue abyss, we would rise again—alive and forever changed.
We might be tempted to psychologize Peter’s willingness to step from the boat, concluding his faith was a function of fearless temperament, like those who willingly batter there bodies with belly-flops from the high-dive. Yet Matthew records the episode, not to highlight a particular disposition, but to surface something universal about following Jesus. Namely, we ought not find it odd to find God calling us on occasion to step from the friendly confines of familiarity to trust Him for what only He can accomplish through faith. To release the grip from the side of the pool and allow the current of His Providence to take us into a new depth.
Acquiescing to His unconventional command may involve a radical change, a choice to forge a new path or clear an old one overgrown by doubt or cynicism. But it might be no more extensive (and yet no less monumental) than speaking a needed word long since trapped by fear in the back of your throat. Or venturing a tentative step toward someone common sense would deem wholly irrational. His command may not always entail relocation but it will disrupt, if only your way of thinking of how He will work.
But to step into what will feel like a more exposed place is to invite disconcerting words the surrounding winds of uncertainty will inevitably whisper. Peter’s moment bears that out, as does our own experience with taking God only at His word. Any change is soon met with impediments that challenge our initial optimism. To leap with love is to risk the sting of being spurned.
That is why it is heartening to know that should we succumb to the voices that compete with His command, the One who beckons us to discover divine enablement is the same who will rescue us from the abyss to which our fears lead. To be sure, Jesus chided Peter for failing to trust that His command was sure. But love was no less present in His disappointment with Peter’s doubt than it was in the call to step from the boat. For the love whose endurance we may take confidence in—even when our faith fails and we sink like a rock—is the same love that sent Jesus to His cross for our ingrained refusal to trust. That His love did not falter under that moment of greatest strain proves its resilience against our Petrine moments of frail faith.
In what venture or relationship might He be calling you to depart from the customary so that you know more profoundly He is God? To us Christ says, “Come on in, the water’s Mine.”