Our introduction to public school has been on one hand sweet and smooth and the other, depressing and disappointing. We left an excellent school in order to enter more fully into the lives of our neighbors and to participate in the collaborative effort necessary to improve the quality of life for those who don’t have the resources or options available to the more resourced in our same city. I shouldn’t have been so shocked, then, to discover the reality that a great disparity exists in what is provided for the abundantly resourced and the “resource stretched”. But I was. I immediately started running around like a crazy chicken (or as I imagine a crazy chicken might) scheming how to get Ellie back into her former school.
My sister was recently published in the online magazine Relevant, writing about how God has used bipolar to mature her faith. She writes articulately and sensitively about this on her blog, mybipolarbrain.com. Even so, many read her writing for the first time in this particular article and were amazed, grateful, encouraging and full of praise. We take for granted living in a community where honesty and transparency are the norm, and many of the comments reminded us that this is not comfortable for many people. The most interesting compliment she received multiple times was that she was “brave.” Of all the things that describe her experience of bipolar and wrestling with faith, brave would never be a word she might have chosen, but so it seemed from the outside.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said.Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said,“why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Matt. 14:25-33
Running while listening to a Tim Keller sermon on Saturday morning, I was reminded that every time people have a face to face encounter with the living God, He sends them out. God sends His people out to do the very work He intended from the beginning, to tend “the Garden”, to cultivate new life and nourish the existing life. After “the fall”, the work of healing, restoration, resurrection and redemption is now a significant part of bringing His “kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.” Abraham was sent away from his people and familiar home, Isaac had to leave to grow the kingdom, Joseph was sent to Egypt to save His people, Moses encountered God in the burning bush and had to go to the very place he had escaped and ultimately, Jesus left the lap of luxury, authority and fortification to enter into His creation to redeem it.
The small vignette of Peter leaving the boat came to mind as I was running, listening and fretting about our present positional dilemma. The first thought was that I was sinking just like Peter. I was listening to reason (You can’t walk on water! You have to provide the best for your children’s future!) and gripped by fear and dismay at the absurd situation I now found myself in…”Get back in the boat!” “Lord, save me!”
But the second thought was where the person and work of Jesus really began to become more clear. Jesus, not Peter, initiated this whole walking on water event. Peter wasn’t initially sitting in the boat thinking, “My faith is weak, or at best in question, I need to do something big so I can experience big faith!’ And, I’m going to hazard a guess that neither he nor his buddies in the boat would credit bravery for his action of stepping out of the boat. He wasn’t motivated by bravery or by special faith but by His Lord, who he did love and trust even if imperfectly, and wasn’t considering anything else in that moment. When the considering did begin, he realized how unreasonable this thing he was doing actually was, and began to sink.
Jesus was dealing with Peter personally and intentionally. Peter walked not based on his own will or power or extraordinary faith, but purely because Jesus called him and Jesus did it. The others stayed in the boat because walking on water wasn’t a new law or form of righteousness, it was a particular moment in Peter’s growth, faith and story line. Peter would doubt again, would be faced with his weak faith again and would be saved from drowning by a compassionate, merciful and faithful Jesus again.
Like Peter, when I encounter Jesus face to face, I willingly jump out of a familiar world into one that might kill me. Like Peter, the moment I start to consider what it is I have done, I begin to panic, fear, be depressed and totally disoriented. Like my sister, this process has little to do with bravery and everything to do with His personal and particular work of redemption in my own heart and faith, and perhaps if necessary, at some point, through our lives to others. And in the process, all I can do is yell, “Lord, save me!”
The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. 1 Thes. 5:24