By what standard do you measure your faith?
When we look at the Scriptures and try to figure out what true faith looks like, I think for many of us, it comes back to to Gospels. To one scene in particular - the time when Peter tries walking on the water. Isn't that what you think of as absolute faith?
It's kind of what we want, isn't it? We want the kind of rock-solid, confident faith that is able to stand on any trouble this world may roll our way, that is able to cross the tumult, that is able to keep its ground. Walking on water is the perfect metaphor for faith.
Or is it?
The other night, I had the opportunity to rescue a baby seal who had become stranded in my living room. I cradled it in my lap as we looked out the bay window to view the world before us. I remember wondering how it had gotten here, but with my eyes locked on it, compassion overwhelmed me and the only thing I could think about what getting that little creature back to the sea. (If you haven't figured out by now, this was a dream. If you know me, you know I don't put a lot of stock in dreams, but sometimes they amuse me and in reflection, I find something valuable to take away.)
I looked out the window and the street was an ocean. I looked back into my lap and there was another, larger seal lying next to us. I'm not sure exactly how it happened but the next image I had was the two - lost baby and big friend - seal-walking down the driveway toward the sea. I watched out the window as the big seal dove in and started to swim away. Then I watched as the little one stood on its flippers and started to walk across the water.
Do you understand the implications of a seal walking across the ocean?
I woke up laughing, amused. I grew a little sadder as I continued to ponder the dream. What was the seal so afraid of? Why wouldn't it just let itself swim? After all, it was created to swim.
So were you. So was I.
There is not one human who naturally walks on water. There is no one among us who can stay above the tumult. There's not one of us who can overcome the waves. We weren't meant to. You and I...were created to throw ourselves in, to launch off the dry land and into the sea. We were made for depth, for currents, for waves. We were made to be overwhelmed. Isn't that what the water feels like when you throw yourself in? Isn't it nothing more than a glorious overwhelming? That's what we were made for!
And here we are judging our faith by our ability to stand. I just don't think that's the thing at all. And what does it say about Jesus? It says that He stands above it all and waits for us to come walking to Him, like He waited for Peter outside of that boat. It says that He expects us to not give in, to be able to stand, to walk on the water. But that's not what He says.
Jesus came not to call us out of the water, but to lead us into it. His entire ministry was in the overwhelmed places of the world. He took Himself into the homes of tax collectors and sinners, onto the streets of torn towns, into the walls of a broken temple. He took Himself into the mess, threw Himself into the waves. He calmed a few storms, sure, but do you think the two or three storms we read about were the only times it thundered in three years of His ministry? Of course not. Most of the time, He was riding them out like the rest of us.
He's the One that came to teach us how to swim. He came to show us the way to the ocean. He came to throw Himself in so that maybe, just maybe, we would have the courage to follow.
Maybe it's not walking on water that is the measure of faith.
Maybe the measure of our faith is whether or not we will swim.