So I'm psyching myself up for what will be my very first boat ride, and all of these boat lovers have only one question for me.
Can you swim?
Their reassurance that my "yes" meant "you will be fine" was not exactly reassuring. Because here I am taking my first few steps from dry land onto the dock, and I'm feeling every one of those waves. Just a few steps out, I can't see the bottom of the lake any more. And to be honest, if I wanted to swim, I'd jump right in. I wanted to go on a boat ride. I was not comforted by the back-up plan.
The dock is a scary place to be. It creates the illusion of a solid place to stand, but it feels anything but. Your feet are steady, but the rest of you is rocking with each little ripple of the water that comes in toward the shore. The boat is close, but a little too far away if you've never made that big of a step before.
One small step for a man...
Once you're aboard, there's so much to do, so much going on, ropes being untied, shoes being stowed away, waves coming in, waves going out, and finally the motor firing up...that you don't really notice any of that any more. And once that little vessel starts cutting through the water, unless you hit a wake or something, you don't even notice the waves.
They aren't rocking you any more. You are rocking them. Suddenly, it's you making the waves and there's nothing the sea can do about it. Talk about a shift in power.
Now, I got an A in advanced physics (two semesters) but it's still not my strong suit. Whenever I'm stressed, to this day, I dream about it being second semester and I haven't done an ounce of physics homework all year. But what I think about the boat is this: I think it's the force through which you, in the boat, are creating your own motion that tames the motion of the waves. That is, as you cut your way through, you have a stronger presence on the water than the water has on you and that creates the illusion of calmness....even when just minutes ago on the dock, you were rocked and you couldn't believe you were about to go out on these very waves.
It got me thinking about Peter. (Because, you know, I've been on a boat for 20 seconds by this point so let's skip right ahead to getting out of the boat and walking on water. Why not?) It got me thinking about the way he was probably comfortable in the boat. Not in the storm, necessarily, but in the boat because for the most part, the motion of the boat was calming. Then the storm comes along and its force is greater than the boat, so everything's rocking. Then everything's really rocking because I'm guessing if Peter wants to step out and walk on water, nobody's even trying to row any more. They are just sitting there, waiting on him to disembark. Waiting on him to step out. And without any motion of their own to counteract the force of the waves, that ship is shimmying. He is feeling every wave.
Christ doesn't ask Peter, Can you swim? He's not making accommodation for disaster. He simply says come, knowing that Peter's about to be rocked. I think the challenge for Peter was to create enough force of motion that he couldn't feel the waves. Enough purpose and passion and pursuit that the storm-tossed sea didn't matter. Enough presence of himself that he was the one making waves. I think he fell short of that.
I often fall short of that.
Christ beckons me come, and I want to go but this world has a way of rocking me that some days is hard to overcome. Some days, I'm sailing and when Christ says come, I have to stop my boat and feel every bit of those waves. I have to build up my courage to step out. And by the time I'm ready to really walk, the waves have taken over and that's all I can see. That's all I can feel. I don't think I'm alone in this.
But I think the answer is that we have to move with such force for God, with such purpose and passion and pursuit, that the power of our motion calms the waves that crash against us. That we don't even notice the waves any more. And we have to move with such power that we make new waves. We set a new ripple on the sea from our very stepping out.
If we could pull that off (and it's a very tall order), I think it doesn't matter if we can swim. We're walking on water, any which way the Savior calls us.