I’m beginning to recognize as I mature, as I learn to listen, as I challenge myself to take time to seek and dig deep, the bible stories I grew up hearing and being told; come at me, come to life, and come apart in ways only the Bible, the LIVING and ACTIVE Word of God, could.
In the gospels, Matthew, Mark, and John, there is the account of Jesus walking on the water. I will summarize it here but it’s always better for me to crack open my Bible and read it for myself. The 3 disciples accounts can be found in Matthew 14:22-32, Mark 6:45-52, John 6:16-21.
This event happens the night Jesus feeds the five thousand from 2 fish and 5 loaves. Jesus sends the disciples out in the boat to make their way to the next place and goes by himself on the mountainside to pray. As He finishes up His prayers, He sees the boat on the sea in the midst of a storm, the wind is wild and the disciples are struggling. He goes to them, walking on the water. The disciples are terrified, think He’s a ghost and call out in fear. He says it’s me don’t worry. And Peter says if it’s really you call to me so I can walk to meet you. So Peter walks to Jesus, looks away, starts to sink, Jesus gets in the boat and the storm is calm and they are at the shore.
As a kid, Jesus walking on water and Peter doing it too was an amazing story for me to hear. So engaging and it was a story that encouraged me to trust in Jesus, to not fear Him or His miracles. Even as a teen and young adult I could always relate to Peter’s fiery attitude, and pain that his faith and his lack faith caused him.
However, this time reading these accounts, going deeper and across chapters in different gospels, has spurred some new thoughts for me. Recently, I was away for the weekend with friends and we discussed this story. A quote my friend shared was this “The shore is not the destination, His Presence is.”
Listen, like the disciples, all I sometimes can see is the shore. The safety, the security, the end to my goal, the fulfillment to my plans, the culmination of the thing I am working hard to achieve. I’ve got a ton of past shores in mind. And a ton of plans for future shores. One thing that strikes me in these stories is that Jesus is not concerned about the shore, in fact HE leaves the safety of the shore and ON FOOT walks into the stormy seas.
Can I back up just a few? Take a look at verse 24 and 25 in Matthew 14 “When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from land, beaten by the waves because the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the water.” Ok, and then verse 48 in Mark 6 “And He saw that they were making headway, painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them.” HOLD UP! Meant to pass by them?!? Didn’t HE see they were struggling, wasn’t He going to fix it? Give them some help and a solution?
These few verses have my mind and reading screeching to a halt and considering what about Jesus’ character does He want to renew my mind about or reveal to me. If I’m honest, pass by them confuses and upsets me. HE says-
I AM God. I AM all knowing. I AM not afraid. I AM capable. I perform miracles. I AM. I see the disciples struggle and I’m not afraid for them. The wind and waves obey ME. I AM in control, therefore I don’t fear the outcome.
Jesus sees their struggle. If I read closer it doesn’t say He immediately began to go to them. No, it says at the fourth watch He came to them. How long was that? Does that mean HE watched their struggle? Maybe He grieved as HE watched it. Grieved their stubbornness. Their hard heartedness.
As I begin to understand and recognize, take courage and gather strength from the fact that HE IS SOVEREIGN, what does this mean for my own struggling at the oars? For my own longing for the shore? For my weariness of the wind and waves? For my sinking when I take my eyes off Him? Has the rowing been such a struggle because I’m focused on the shore instead of Him?
Is this place I find myself just the second watch? Maybe the third? Is the fourth watch finally approaching?
Wait! Is that a definition of HOPE?!?
And there it is- the pivot.
What shore could actually be better than His presence? What if the shore I’m so focused on isn’t the one HE’s got planned and prepared for me? What if He’s protecting me from the very shore I’m hellbent on getting to? Or what if I need more time to be prepared for that shore? What lessons am I learning in the rowing that will prepare me for an unknown, future shore?
What about the struggling at the oars is because of me? I can recognize that the wind and waves present a real difficulty, a real struggle, a real set of frustrations and fears, but would the rowing be different if my eyes were on His presence and not the shore? I am literally picturing a rowing instructor barking orders at a team of rowers in a competition. Perhaps I sometimes need less of the gentle still voice to get my attention.
John 6:21 says this “Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and IMMEDIATELY the boat was at the land to which they were going.” Immediately. The land, the shore, the struggle, the culmination, the fulfillment, was completed in and by His Presence.
His Presence is the destination.
This pivot is powered by the Word of God.
“For the Word of God is living and active , sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
This pivot is a demonstration of the mercy of my God.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Psalms 32:8