Have you ever noticed that it’s often in our most challenging times that we sense God’s presence most clearly? I’m not saying it should be this way. Or that God only appears when we most need him. Rather, I think there is just something about significant challenges and trials that clarify our priorities and cut through the many distractions of everyday life that prevent us from seeing God more clearly.
So part of what strikes me in this passage (Matthew 14:22-33) is how it reveals something deeply true about our humanity, and I think it is personified in the behavior of the disciples. While I know for sure that I often overlook God’s presence in the peaceful and pleasant times of my life when all is well, I have no problem calling out to him when things take a more difficult turn. Yes, I know it’s all a part of our transformative journey during which we grow in our quest to be more closely united with God. But let’s face it, it’s so much easier to live in the peaceful and pleasant times.
I think part of it is that we spend a fair amount of our time and energy trying to establish a stable, safe, and secure life, both for ourselves and those we love. There’s nothing wrong with that on one level. From the beginning God desires that we flourish, and stability promotes growth. But do we sometimes just sit back and wait for life to happen, or do we step out of our “boat” and make it happen? Either way, we may forget how much we depend on God. All too often we take comfort in our modest success and assume we no longer need God, or at least forget how much a part of our lives God is… and desires to be. Or is it that we confuse the “status quo” with abundant life? Yet, when tragedy strikes in the form of personal loss, illness, the fracture of a relationship, or some mistake we’ve made, our ongoing need for God becomes painfully clear.
And what does this say about Peter? What model does this simple man provide for us? Despite the danger that surrounded him, he was willing to leave the boat and meet Jesus where he was. And when he began to think and tried to take control instead of surrendering his fear to God, he faltered…yet somehow he knew he would be OK as he reached out to Jesus. Oh, how I envy Peter.