Growing up on the water… swimming, water skiing, sailing… ah, is it any wonder the beach is my happy place?! So when the opportunity to sail this catamaran presented itself, why refuse — right?!
Only problem… the girl who sailed a Starfish (think glorified surfboard with a sail, rudder, and centerboard) and relished purposely tipping her over for the “fun” of righting her again was a teenager. Not the person whose risk-taking seems to have nose-dived with the passing of years.
And yet this older version of me, the version that endeavors to live by the motto “walk by faith, not by sight,” figured… well, why not?!? And so my intrepid husband joined me, the supposed sailing expert, on our outing.
Some things, like riding a bicycle, come back regardless of how much time has elapsed since one’s last bike ride. Sailing is a bit like that. Well… kind of. After signing a waiver saying that we (I!) basically knew what we were doing and according to the flag at the rental stand that was blowing — for the most part, anyway — strongly offshore, we set out.
It took a few attempts to get rudder and sail in sync, and then some disheartening moments when I panicked, wondering if we’d catch the wind… but then it happened! We started skimming across the water, savoring the peaceful sounds of water caressing the hull, basking in the clear blue sky and breathtaking scenery.
Well… kind of.
I soon found myself fearful that we’d go too far out to sea, that I wouldn’t be able to get us back to the dock on time, that we’d become becalmed — needing to be rescued by the folks from the rental company. (Yes, I have an overactive imagination!) But my husband kept encouraging me, kept saying we had plenty of time and so why not continue sailing some more instead of giving up and taking the safe route back to the dock? We had good wind speed and were on the right trajectory to make it effortlessly back.
My “faith muscle” had me willing to begin the adventure… baby steps… but it petered out in the midst of challenges, especially the voices in my head that were telling me all sorts of wrong things.
Jesus’ followers were out on the sea one time when a storm blew in, battering them about in the darkness of night. At about 4:00 a.m. Jesus, who had been on the nearby mountainside praying, came toward them… walking on the water! They were scared out of their wits, full of fear — understandably so! They thought they were seeing a ghost, but Jesus reassured and comforted them by saying, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Impulsive Peter, emboldened by hearing Christ’s voice, did the unthinkable… he jumped out of the boat and started walking ON THE WATER towards Jesus!
BUT… when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, when he saw the wind, he lost his nerve. He was afraid. He began to sink.
Jesus didn’t hesitate a second. He reached out, grabbed Peter by the hand, and caught him. “Faint-heart,” He addressed Peter. “What got into you? Why did you doubt?”
I can’t help but wonder if the expression “to peter out” has its roots in Peter’s situation — even though the dictionary says the origin is uncertain. It means to tire, to become exhausted, to diminish gradually and stop, to dwindle to nothing. It certainly describes what he experienced walking on water…
… and also my experience sailing. My “faith muscle” petered out. I started with taking a baby step, trusting that the familiarity of past experiences would be sufficient to propel me into this “new” situation. But, like Peter, I took my eyes off what could’ve enabled me to not “sink.” And, like Peter, I still needed to hear and respond to my Savior’s words of encouragement: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” I need to hear this everyday.
Baby steps. Taking steps of faith. That’s what growing up — and continuing to grow –is all about. Whether it’s choosing to do something outside your comfort zone or facing past fears, failures, hurts; admitting to wrong-doing or asking for forgiveness; believing what God says is true about you or making the choice to not give up and take the safe route, whatever that may be…. the list goes on and on.
Whatever is stirring your heart and mind as we enter this New Year, may God give you the grace and resolve to keep moving forward, to keep taking those baby steps. And as we do that, may we individually and together have joy in the journey of this thing called “Life.”
Note: The above story of Jesus and Peter walking on water can be found in Matthew chapter 14, verses 22-31.