Sunday, August 9, 2020

Don’t Look Down!

Today’s Gospel lectionary reading (Matthew 14:22-33) is the story of Jesus walking on water. The text relates how the disciples were in a boat battling a storm. It reads like they were having a real struggle. It must have been quite scary. 


Many years ago, I was in a small open ferry in Wales, travelling from Tenby to Caldey Island. It is a short journey which we had undertaken easily in the morning. We had spent a wonderful day wandering on the island. Mid-afternoon the sky started to darken so we hurried to the beach to catch the ferry back to the mainland. We were told that due to the storm approaching this would be the last ferry of the day. As we made the crossing the storm hit. I could describe it in much the same way the author of the gospel did, “the boat battered by the waves, was far from land, for the wind was against them.” In our little ferry I was terrified. However, we made it safely thanks to the skill of the young man operating it —although as his colleague on shore helped him tie up, we did overhear him say that at one point he thought that he had lost the boat!


In the story today, in the midst of the fear and chaos of the storm Jesus came walking towards them. It is a great story, the subject of many pictures and children’s books. Many studies and much discussion have been undertaken by scholars on the subject of walking on water — ice on the lake, rocks under the surface, etc. I read a few, they are readily available on google. 


The text for today continues with Peter getting out of the boat to walk towards Jesus. And, as I thought through the story, this is where I want to pause and ponder. I think this is where I can find relevance for my life. 


In the narrative, Peter left the boat presumably full of confidence, but fear of the waves and the wind overtook him, and he started to sink. Peter looked down. He looked at the circumstances, he looked at difficulties and fear overwhelmed him.


As I pondered it, I thought of destinations, goals and direction. I know in the past I have talked many times about enjoying the journey —and that still holds true. So much can be missed if a journey is rushed, forgetting the beauty and the experiences encountered while travelling.


But today, I want to think about destinations, about dreams and visions, about goals. This story illustrates that beautifully. I want to hold in tension enjoying the journey and keeping the focus on the destination.


Focusing on the goal is another important aspect of life. Or, to express it differently, not losing sight of the vision or holding onto the dream. Or perhaps, a deep inner knowing of where one wants to be at any particular stage of life. 


If that is kept in forefront of one’s mind, then when the storm comes —when the boat is being battered by waves and the wind is strong — it won’t overwhelm.  Lots can be learnt from this story — don’t look down, keep eyes steadfastly on the destination until the calm is restored and the journey continues in peace . . . until the next storm!  I love the cyclic rhythm of life.