We sang Hillsong’s Oceans (Where Feet may fail) on Sunday; it’s a beautiful song about following Jesus onto the water. It alludes to the passage when Jesus walked past the disciples on a stormy sea, while they struggled against the wind in a boat (Matthew 14, Mark 6, John 6).
Envisioning the scene, Jesus is on the lake; I’m on the shore. If I’m going to follow Jesus, I’m going to have to get my feet wet.
Why do we avoid so strongly getting our feet wet, or our hands dirty? We seek so carefully to remain at the least safe, and more often, comfortable.
Jesus is on the lake; I’m on the shore. If I’m going to follow Jesus, I’m going to have to get my feet wet.
Letting my mind enter the story which inspired the song, I sat down on the dry ground at the side of the sea of Galilee. Thirsty, and beginning to feel physically hungry after slating my spiritual hunger on the rabbi’s words all day, I lie back and close my eyes. Before realizing I’d fallen asleep, the family beside me said, “Ma’am? Ma’am? Would you like some bread?” Not just bread, but fish. Who had provided such a feast for strangers? Wanting to leave enough for those behind me, I took a small loaf and piece of fish. But the basket didn’t lighten; in fact, it seemed to replenish itself from a hidden oasis. Laughing, I took 4 loaves and 2 fish, enough to feed me now, plus sustain me on the long trek home. Everyone else was laughing too, eating, or once they’d finished, getting up and starting to dance. After watching for a few moments, I joined in. I’d never known such joy admidst a few fellow townspeople and hundreds of strangers! Not even at weddings was the party this festive!
The rabbi, too, shared our joy. When his disciples finished distributing the food (actually, it looked like they were collecting food), the women among them started singing. Joining hands, they formed a circle and started dancing clockwise. Soon the men formed an outer ring, passing the women in a counterclockwise whirl. For more than an hour songs broke out in one part of crowd, then another, as people expressed the joy that seemed be tangibly present – like a wedding guest who invited you to dance, and wouldn’t take no for an answer!
When night fell, I was one of the last ones to leave Jesus. As a woman, I knew I was vulnerable to any threat, but I feared no evil. Surely the grace of this day would burn in everyone’s heart forever, and I knew Jesus would protect me, although he was already disappearing up the mountain.
“So I will call upon Your name, and keep my eyes above the waves. When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace, for I am yours, and you are mine.”
The chorus reminded me of the next part of the scene. The disciples are in a boat, and they fear for their lives. Jesus is on the raging waves, and his faith allows him to overcome the laws of nature and walk on water. It’s not his divinity that allowed him to walk on water; remember, Peter walked on the water too, and Jesus chastised his lack of faith when he fell. So his faith must have enabled Peter to make those steps, and if he kept having faith, he could have kept walking. I’m not convinced that the miracle can be repeated without the physical presence of Jesus; I think we’d need to have him command us to walk on water in person before we could muster up enough faith to even try. But for a few moments, a human did! I applaud Peter’s faith, and empathise with his doubt.
For myself, I don’t want to stay on the metaphorical shore, safe and dry, debating whether or not we can walk on water. I want to follow Jesus! I hope he leads me by still waters and green pastures, but if he should clearly call, I want to be willing to “walk on water.” To me, that’s a metaphor for getting in over my head, tackling something that can only succeed with God’s miraculous grace. I want to be willing to get my feet wet, and if called, have the faith to go as deep as he asks. I’m afraid he’ll ask me to go in over my head. I might sink, but then again, I might find myself as buoyant as I do in salt water. Even in fresh water we are incredibly buoyant, but only when we relax. Relaxed, I can swim for hours. Fearful, I can drown in minutes.
If the weather gets rough, and I can’t keep my head above water, I think Jesus will help me learn to breathe water. As a scuba diver, trusting my tank was terrifying at first. Now, it enables me to see a beautiful underwater world that would otherwise be inaccessible to me. Maybe God gives us oxygen in new ways when we follow him into waters that are, humanly speaking, over our head.
Maybe God gives us oxygen in new ways when we follow him into waters that are, humanly speaking, over our head.
The most exciting ways I’ve walked into deep waters so far have been pursuing a career change into international development, and risking financial security to visit Africa to see how I can help. After stepping out willingly (but scared) on the first trip, I’m now impatiently waiting “on shore” for another chance to go. I’ve spent about a year in Africa so far, and I can’t wait to go again. I know it’s had a much greater impact on me than on the people I’ve gone to help, and I often fear the limitless needs will overwhelm me. Still, I want to hold whatever I have in “open hands,” trusting that as I give, God will lead others to meet my needs. It’s still scary, though. I trust more in the “5 loaves and 2 fish” on my paycheque, than I do that God will send more guardian angels my way. New friends have given me phones which helped me stay in touch from a lonely place, rides when my pockets were empty, free housing when I had no resources, and I made it through 3 months of surprises without an ATM in sight. It’s humbling to be in Africa and receive such generousity, but God does provide, and keeps teaching me that it’s safer in his hands without a safety net, than pretending my job or retirement plans are solid and secure. His will is the only safe place to be.
Come in, the water’s warm.