Text: Matthew 14:22-32
He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. Matthew 14:29
Stephanie is typically the daredevil in our family. She exemplifies the “go big or go home” persona. But there was a time when I saw her paralyzed with fear. When she was 8-years old, our family watched Shark Week and got inspired to go swimming with the sharks. Though the actual shark part never really materialized, we did get invited to go on a private VIP tour to swim with manatees off the Gulf Coast of Florida.
We boated out to the site and were instantly surrounded by these huge creatures drifting all around the boat. Our friend, a professional manatee guide, plunged in and began snorkeling with these friendly “sea cows.” I soon followed and expected Steph to jump right in behind me. When I turned around, she stood frozen on the deck, intimidated by these huge water creatures. I gently urged her to get in but she wouldn’t budge. The rest of the family got in as our guide began shooting video and pictures of this epic adventure with an underwater camera.
This was a defining moment for our little girl. I made my daughter this promise: “Honey, I can’t promise you that in life it will always be safe to jump… but I can tell you this, if you don’t jump, you will be watching this video later and you will regret not being in the picture.” That’s all it took for my little 8-year old adventurist to overcome her gripping fear and jump into the deep.
Splash! She was all-in.
Once my daughter got the revelation that her regrets of inaction would hurt more than any risk taken that day, she left her fear in the boat and jumped in the water. She got a hold of the reality that if she played it “safe,” she would regret it for a long time.
Stephanie danced beautifully with the manatees that day. It was a dance of courage. Fitting enough, we took that underwater video footage and later dubbed it to Lee Ann Womack’s song, I Hope You Dance, who artistically reminds us, “And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” I believe it will be an heirloom in our family for a long time.
I am convinced that at the end of our years it will be regrets of inaction that far outweigh the regrets of action in our lives. In other words, we will be more regretful over not being in the picture at all (playing it safe) because we were afraid to jump, rather than being in the picture, looking vulnerable at times—even afraid—or feeling like a failure after we have jumped. The regrets of not jumping will haunt us more than anything else.
Getting Out of the Boat
This is the dilemma for Peter in Matthew 14. Imagine what it must’ve felt like for this passionate Christ-follower, clinching the frazzled ropes on the edge of the boat while Jesus stands majestically on the crest of the waves, defiant of the storm’s threat. He beckons Peter to take a bold step of faith and walk on the water with Him. Peter looks around cautiously. No one else is getting out of the boat. It doesn’t make sense to the seasoned fisherman. Humans aren’t supposed to walk on water. As he continues to pan his surroundings and the imminent threat of danger, he makes eye contact with Jesus. In that moment, faith overrides his fears. He steps out of the boat.
Peter takes that first step and all of a sudden it feels as if someone else is doing the rest. Peter is now in the picture. He is dancing with the impossible. He is walking on water. That’s what faith can do. Yes, Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus momentarily and is distracted by the storm, but only to fall into the arms of grace. Yet he is unsinkable because his Master Choreographer holds his hand. Peter need never fear getting out of the boat again. He follows the One who even the winds and the waves obey. Peter would never have to live to regret the day he failed to follow Jesus into the deep. On the contrary, he would know what it’s like to do the unbelievable, and furthermore, to know intimately what it’s like to fall into the arms of grace when you fail. But regrets of inaction would have no torment over him.
“If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever,” said Thomas Aquinas. Our goal is not to preserve our own safety, it’s to learn how to trust and follow Jesus anywhere, which inevitably will take us into unchartered territory at times. It will involve storms. It will involve waves. We will be vulnerable. We may even sink momentarily. We may lose focus temporarily. But we must never let fear reduce our lives to being a mere boat-preserver. We exist to risk boldly for the glory of God out in the deep, rather than play it safe in the port.
Where will your faith have no borders this week? Think about that as you seek to follow Jesus boldly.
Heavenly Father, remind us that we don’t exist to play it safe. We exist to risk boldly for your kingdom glory. Empower us with the Holy Spirit to take necessary steps of faith that seek your glory rather than retreating into a religious harbor of self-preservation. Grant us the courage to do your will, especially when it calls us to a place of risk and vulnerability. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Never let fear reduce your life to the role of a boat-preserver when you’ve been called to walk on water. Get out of the boat! Tweet this
Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:
- What is the most frightening experience you’ve ever had?
- Have you ever felt “paralyzed” by fear?
- In what seasons of life have you felt distracted from Jesus?
- When have you stepped out in faith and risked vulnerably for God’s glory?
- Where do you need to risk vulnerably for the glory of God this week?
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