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Peace Be Still

What was your day like today? How has your week been? Did you pass the familiar faces, “Hi, yes I’m fine, thanks.” In some aspect, I think everyone is traveling this life on the open sea. As the storms in my life rise and diminish, I am all too often sharing a façade, that I think others want to see. “I’m fine, you’re fine, we are all fine.” Sometimes I lean into the courteous response, because I myself am just working out my level of “fine-ness.” If you are like me, there are times when it seems like I am rowing out on the open sea. All around are waves that threaten at any moment to engulf my tiny vessel. The shore is nowhere to be seen. I am exhausted, but the grueling tempest drives ever more. Each pull of the oars pilfer what little strength I have remaining. With each stroke, the promise to advance is voraciously devoured by the hungry sea, while my efforts do little more than keep me from tipping over. My strength is fading; the storm is increasing. Will this ever stop? Will I have the strength to make it through?

I have never actually been on a boat on the open sea, let alone one that was in the middle of a storm. I do think, however, that the analogy strikes a familiar chord. The closest of Jesus followers were men of the sea. They knew all too well the temperamental behavior of the deep. One moment calm open sea and the next a torrential deluge. The Savior had just fed a massive and weary audience, who had been blessed to hear him speak. The disciples prepare to go back home, using the most expedient path they knew, a fishing boat. Jesus goes up to pray, and the disciples set out. On their journey, they encounter a storm. This would not have been a simple fit of rain. It was something that terrified even the most accomplished seamen in their little boat that day. They fought against the growing tempest and were quickly losing all hope.

When you are in the middle of your most severe trials, what is your prayer? I feel confident that the disciples were praying for respite from the storm, as any sane person would. Jesus does not calm the storm, at least not yet. Jesus goes beyond our imagination and walks into the trial of the disciples. He walks on the water to the center, where their lives are certain to be lost, or so it would seem. Simon is the first to test the figure calling out, “It is I do not be afraid.” The words are unthinkable. If it is you, command that I come out on the water to you. Jesus says come, and against every “sensible” action Simon leaves the “safety” of the storm-tossed boat. For a moment, Simon experiences what it is like to have complete trust in Jesus. Jesus still does not calm the storm. Step by step as the behemoth of reality begins to pound on the faith of Simon, he begins to fade. Simon’s faith has placed him in a place far more dangerous than that little boat. “Oh, ye of little faith.” The ironic thing is that it took a great deal of faith for Simon to step out on the water, to literally do the impossible and walk on water with Jesus.

The teaching of Jesus is clear. Stepping out into the impossible is not the test. Realizing the reality of who Jesus is, what he intends for us and his power over even the most terrifying storm in our life, that is the true test of faith. Simon begins to sink, and in that final moment from the inmost depths of his being explodes his last hope, an imploring cry… LORD SAVE ME!!!

Up until this point, Jesus still had not calmed the storm. He reaches out his hand and denies the depths the prey of its desire. Simon was saved. It is only now, as Jesus steps into the boat with Simon, that we experience what must have been the disciples most fervent prayer… the storm is gone.

This story in the hands of the creator could have played out in many ways. However, what has been revealed to us is that God chose to handle this storm by walking into it. It seems that this analogy quickly leaps off the pages of the gospel and spreads over the whole world, as the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst the storm of mankind. The one that had the power to calm the storm did not choose to still the waters, until he entered the boat with the disciples. I am still convinced that peace was the most reasonable prayer on the part of the disciples, if indeed that was the prayer that they were making. However, is it possible that the storms are supposed to drive us to the loving embrace of God, the only true peace in the mist of the deluge of this life? As I read over this story in the gospel accounts, I wonder if my prayer should also be imploring the Lord to feel his hand wresting me from the adversary, as my faith begins to fade. I can never forget that Jesus is in the storm; he does not fail. The storm is not his equal; it is at his command.

Lord, save me!

Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-52, John 6:16-21