If the measure of our faith is our willingness to swim and not our ability to walk on water, then why is that story even in the Gospel? Why does God tell us about Peter's failure to do something we weren't actually created to do?
I don't claim to understand why everything that is in the Bible is in the Bible. Some of it, I truly wonder. There's a passage in the Old Testament where Saul was hunting David and went into the cave where David was hiding "to relieve himself." I didn't need to know that. Someone, somewhere, was divinely inspired to believe I did. Now I do. I don't know why.
But here's what I get from Peter's water-walking, and this is the thought I want to share with you:
This episode is a story of faith - in both Christ and self. Everyone on that boat knew they weren't supposed to walk on water. That's why they were terrified when Jesus showed up standing on the waves. But Peter says, "I want to do that." We don't know why. We don't know what possessed Peter to want to attempt this feat.
The line in the Gospel says, "If it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water." There were a lot of other ways Peter could have answered the question, "Is it really you?" without putting himself in harm's way. But this is his choice, and Jesus responds, "Ok. Come."
This is the crux of the lesson of water-walking that I think we often forget: Peter didn't go when he simply wanted to; he went when he was called.
As I said yesterday, I think so many of us judge our faith by our ability to walk on water, and my question in response to that is: Did Jesus call you onto the water? If He didn't, even if you pull it off, it's not faith. It's cool. It's unique. Good for you. But it's not faith. Faith is trusting God for what He asks of you, not for what He asked of someone else.
Which leads me to what I think the point of this story is - it's an invitation to understand the dynamic between what God asks of you, what He creates in you, what He makes possible in you, and who you are.
Peter fell in. We so often attribute this to his lack of faith in Christ, who called him onto the water. Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn't. I think it's easier to believe this was a sign of Peter's lack of faith in himself. Knowing what we know of Peter, I think it's quite possible that he believed God could do what He was doing and believed God could ask him to do what He was doing and believed God could make it possible for him to do what He was asking him to do...but he could hardly believe he could do it.
Isn't that the way it is with our faith? It's easy to believe God could do this or that thing, even this or that impossible thing, but it's absurd to think He could do it with us. I mean, we know us. We know who we are, and it's hard to believe that He could do anything with us, let alone the impossible. That's the struggle of faith. It's not that we just have to believe in God, it is that we also must believe in God in us, and that is where Peter failed. That is where we often fail.
This is the lesson of water-walking. It's not that we should always be above the waves. It's not that we go walking to Jesus on the water so we can show Him we believe. It's that 1) we wait until God calls us and then 2) we believe in the God who is calling, we believe in the calling, we believe He will make it possible, and we believe He will make it possible in us. And then we go.
That's faith, the way it was meant to be. That's water-walking.