My family is in the midst of one of the biggest transitions of our lives. We have moved back to the state where both my husband and I grew up. It’s where we went to school, where we fell in love, and where all of our extended family resides.
Prior to the move I imagined the greatness of the move, how it was going to benefit our family, and how we would have a part in impacting our community alongside a church family. I was a bit fearful of the unknown and sad to leave 18 years’ worth of friends who had become our heart family, but regardless of my apprehension, my husband and I really felt like it was God’s will. After all, we had prayed over this move for years. Not weeks, or months, but years! We faithfully asked God to never open a door He didn’t want us to walk through when it came to uprooting our family. He answered that prayer by shutting and keeping doors closed for many years, and then one day He flung the door open wide.
Now, as I sit typing this, I find myself in a chaotic place. Not just because the nine people in our family have temporarily moved in with my parents and my children are stir-crazy from the cold weather trapping us indoors. Not just because 99% of everything we own is in a storage locker awaiting us to find it a home. Not just because I had a baby a month ago and my hormones are still out of whack. Not just because I have someone looking over my shoulder as I parent and school my children in a way completely different than they did it.
The real reason I feel like I am in turbulent ocean waters is because I can’t seem to feel God. My inability to sense God’s hand around me, holding me, has made me begin to question this move, even though I know this is His plan for our family. We saturated it in prayer. This was going to be epic. My kids were going to be able to catch lightening bugs in the back yard, find tadpoles, be with family. Our church family told us we were going to do awesome things for the Kingdom with our new church and what an asset we would be. All these thoughts seem like romantic notions now as we continue to hunt for a church in the bleakest of literal and metaphoric winters. Lightning bugs and being rockstars for Jesus–are they really attainable?
Daily I search the Word for hope, for sanity. I say the prayer of the man whose son was sick in Mark chapter 9, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief,” because I know He’s in this. I really do know it. I see Him continue to orchestrate details of my daily life. I see Him in the beauty of nature, but I want to feel Him again and the security of his grasp.
In the Gospels is where I have found myself, in a man named Peter. Matthew 14:22-33 tells the story of a dark night when the disciples are out at sea in a boat. Jesus comes to them walking on the water. The disciples are frightened, not just because the sea is rough, but because there is a man walking on the water whom they believe to be a ghost. When their phantom speaks, He identifies Himself as Jesus and tells them not to be afraid. Peter responds with, “Lord, if it is you, then tell me to come to You on the water.”
Who knows what Peter was thinking. Maybe he wanted to be like his Teacher. I know I do. Maybe he wanted the others to see the great things he could do with Jesus. Right or wrong, that’s one of the motives for me wanting to find a new church. Maybe he wanted to see the extent of God’s power. Who doesn’t when they feel powerless? Whatever the reason, and despite his fear, he took a leap of faith and stepped out of the boat and onto the water. He believed he could because this person walking on the waves was not a ghost, but was His friend and teacher, Jesus.
Now once out of the boat and on the water, things got real. No more thoughts of grandeur. He wasn’t skipping to Jesus like a tiny girl in a field of flowers. He wasn’t the macho man strutting to his holy brotha for a chest bump. Nope. It was scary, lonely, and he didn’t want to do it any more. There was nothing awesome about it. He felt like he was going to drown in this water he willingly climbed onto. Peter cries out to Jesus with the emotion of a man about to die, because that was the logical assumption – death. Even though Peter thought he was about to die, he also knew Jesus would save him. The paradox of a watery grave and a Savior’s hand. The touch he couldn’t feel but he could see coming.
I am there.
I’ve stepped out, I have a visual, but I’m still getting hit with waves and I want the shelter that comes from His touch.
When Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you,” Jesus could have levitated Peter a few inches above the water and into His arms, but He didn’t. He made Peter walk to Him. He let Peter sink when he lost his focus. Outside factors began to drown him before the water ever could. This exercise was not for the Lord’s benefit; it was for Pete’s sake. It was the life lesson that needed to happen so that not only Peter would remember, but we would remember, too.
There are times in our lives when we say we want to do something and God gives us His blessing. Then when it’s different from what we imagined–we doubt. We doubt the decisions we’ve made, the calling He has placed on us. Life seems to engulf us, but when a visual is not enough, we have to keep walking until we “feel” God again.
I’m walking on water that’s more than a bit choppy, not necessarily just in the physical realm, but in the emotional and spiritual realms. I’m not feeling Him, but soon I will and when I do, I’m going to wring out these wet clothes with my pruny fingers and claim once again, “Truly you are the Son of God.”