Hearkening to my Catholic roots, I observe Lent most years. March 24 marked Lent’s halfway point with 20 days of observance ahead before Easter (23 calendar days).
O.K. so I’ve taken my eyes off Jesus with regard to my Lent resolutions. At the halfway point, I’m essentially like Peter in Matthew’s account of Jesus walking on water - sinking!
That’s the story our pastor chose to open our monthly church board meeting last week, from Matthew 14:22-32. The disciples ran into a storm while crossing the Sea of Galilee when Jesus approached their boat, walking on the water. Peter asks the Lord to command him to come, also atop the raging sea. When Jesus agrees, Peter climbs from the boat and heads Jesus’ way.
Our conversation generally regarded how Peter sank when he allowed the storm all around and underfoot to draw his attention away from Jesus. Hard not to empathize with Peter because we do that too in our own lives as believers.
Me? I’m not bold like Peter. Pretty sure I would have remained in the boat, I am most drawn to how Jesus rescued Peter as he sank.
“Immediately,” sounds good to me, as in without hesitation or any qualifying questions or cross examination. Sure, Jesus chided Peter for doubting but only after he rescued him.
Rescue first, lesson later. That’s God’s pattern. Generally, if not always, God leads, initiates, calls something into being, invites, appears, reveals, or rescues before making any requests or demands or commands.
No problem finding other stories like this in the Bible - Adam, Abraham, Job, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, Jonah, and on into Jesus’ time with Peter, Zacchaeus, and Paul. Invariably, God establishes himself with whoever he draws into his story before he makes his “requirements” known - to honor, respect and acknowledge him.
Too often we anchor faith on what we do while the key to faith is what God does before he asks us to do anything. Painstakingly, patiently God is showing me how my doing is actually responding to him, his presence, what he has done for me - drawing, restoring, redeeming.
At the board meeting, fellow Elders offered several thoughts about how walking the often rough waters of life while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus plays out practically. Someone offered that Jesus often counsels us to relax, be quick to repent, and to not be so hard on ourselves. Didn’t he also readily acknowledge that we would have trouble in this life but to take heart because he has overcome the world? (see Matthew 11: 28-30; John 3:17 and 16:33)
For the balance of Lent, I’m taking Peter’s lead, following him out of the boat, challenging myself to do better in the next 20 days before Easter. Not so much to satisfy a Lenten duty or requirement for holy living or prove anything to myself but in response to what the Lord has done for me and to honor who he is.
I’m not planning to falter but if I do, I am assured that Jesus’ hand will be there to rescue me.