I looked up at the sky and my stomach lurched. Dark clouds were starting to roll in. The wind had already began to blow.
“Man, Andy, look at that,” I said to my brother. Andrew turned and his eyes widened.
“Of all the days for Jesus to send us across the lake!”
Thoughts of doom started swirling in my mind. While Jesus was somewhere safe on land, we were approaching a storm in our puny boat. What fun. And this time, Jesus wasn’t with us to calm the storm!
A huge wave rocked me out of my thoughts. The storm was getting stronger. The wind was furious.
“Shifts, men!” Philip shouted. “Who will take the first shift?” Nearly everyone put up their hand. “Okay, Bart and Thomas and James will be first. Everyone else should try to get some sleep.”
We all headed down and tried to sleep. Yeah, right–who’s going to sleep in this storm?
I woke up to someone shaking me vigorously. “Peter! Wake up!”
I rolled over and opened my eyes to see Judas staring at me. He looked downright terrified. “What is it?” I mumbled.
“I don’t know, I think somebody’s drowning, but maybe it’s a ghost!”
“What?” I asked as I sat up. I followed him to the edge of the boat. By now, most of the disciples were out as well, looking out at the lake. Judas pointed out into the waves. I didn’t see anything.
“Look closely,” he said. And then I did see it. There was some figure out in the water. It didn’t look like he was drowning–in fact, he wasn’t struggling at all. It actually looked more like he was hovering over the water.
“Do you see it?” Judas asked. I nodded. “He’s not even under the water, Pete! It’s like he’s walking on it!”
I strained my eyes. It did seriously look like that. But it couldn’t be real, could it? People don’t just walk on water!
“Guys, it’s alright,” a voice said. I nearly jumped out of my skin–the voice was somehow right next to my ear despite the howling storm. For some reason I knew it was coming from that man in the water. “Don’t be afraid,” he continued. “Take courage, ’cause I’m here!”
Wait…was that Jesus? Relief rushed like a wave over me. Now here was someone who could stop the storm! He had done it before–so why not do it again? “Lord, if that’s really you,” I called out to him, “tell me to come to you. Like, walk on the water!” I stumbled back, shocked from the words that had just come out of my mouth. I hadn’t meant to say that! I wanted Jesus to calm the storm, not get me walking on it!
Some of the disciples snickered. “Yes, come!” Jesus said from the water.
I don’t even know why I obeyed him. Walking on water? That was crazy! Despite every bone in my body fighting against this insane idea, my heart seemed to pump passion into me. I carefully crawled over the boat and jumped down, expecting to sink as usual. The disciples gasped. I opened my eyes.
I was standing on top of the water.
I looked at Jesus. He smiled warmly at me and motioned for me to come to him. So–what else was I supposed to do?–I began to walk toward Jesus, each cautious step landing on the surface of the lake. My breathing was steady, but inside there was a turmoil of thoughts spinning inside of me. Okay, I thought. I am walking on water. On top of water. I’m not sinking. And all of this is happening in the middle of a crazy storm.
I peered down at my sandals. They calmly looked back up at me. Then I glanced to my right. The waves were far from calm. Instead, they raged and crashed in a furious dance, angry waves of frustration. One wave reached higher than my head, and my eyes widened. That is one crazy storm. Suddenly my heart stopped pumping passion into me and Jesus’ smiling face disappeared and I was left staring at the wide open water, far from the safety of the boat and surrounded by humongous waves of anger. My heart almost stopped beating. I was terrified.
First my feet got wet, then my legs went under, and I realized I was sinking. Sinking. The one thing I trusted Jesus to overcome for me.
“JESUS!” I screamed as I fell. “Save me, Lord!” I tried to gulp some air as my head went under. I thrashed around, desperately hoping to grasp something solid. Suddenly a hand gripped my wrist and yanked me up. I coughed and sputtered. It was Jesus. He had saved me.
Jesus shook his head sadly. “You have so little faith.” His voice felt broken and rejected. “Why did you doubt me?” I opened my mouth, but I couldn’t say a thing. Holding my hand tightly, we walked slowly back to the boat and climbed back in. I laid on the floor, panting and wondering what had just happened.
The disciples surrounded Jesus, oblivious to me. “You really are the Son of God!” Andrew said in awe, kneeling at Jesus’ feet. The others copied him.
I closed my eyes and breathed in. When I opened them, I stared at the sky. The storm clouds had disappeared. I listened to the water. The waves were calm. The boat wasn’t rocking out of control.
I closed my eyes again and smiled. Sure, I had messed up. I hadn’t trusted that Jesus could keep me from sinking. I had trusted the waves more than him. But through it all, he had still bothered to calm the storm, the thing I had wanted him to do in the first place.
I guess I had learned my lesson.
* * *
This is based on the story of Peter and Jesus walking on water. To read the full story, go to Matthew 14:22-33.