There are nights here in New Zealand when the wind rallies from across the ocean and hurls itself violently against our exposed little island.
We're snug, tucked in under the covers, and the windows are secured, but still, on a gale-force night, the walls of the house shudder, the usually placid sea outside my window whips up like fury, and the wind literally whistles.
When you live here on this sea-framed island at the bottom of the world, it's easy to picture Peter and his friends trying to keep their cool in the middle of a storm It doesn't matter how confident the sailor or well-crafted the boat, when the sea turns choppy, it's time to make for shore.
But these men had tried, the storm was intensifying, and the whole lot of them were out of their depth . . .
I admire Peter for handling the situation the way he did. It's not easy to recover your wits, let alone summon your faith when you think you've seen a ghost.
But it wasn't a ghost. It turned out to be Jesus-to his relief - and I love that, rather than futilely trying to make himself heard against such wind, rather than calling for Jesus to calm the whole thing down, he simply throws himself with abandon right out into the squall. This isn't a time to overthink the situation; it's time to fall back on instinct–and if your first instinct is to step out in faith, you're in good shape right there. Before you know it, you've thrown a leg over the side of your water-laden vessel, and what do you know? You're walking with Jesus!
When you're copping it on every side, you're in despair, and Jesus appears, you don't care anymore about the fallout. You don't care if the water's cold, or what the others think, or that you might just drown. Desperation fuels faith, and it's astounding how people can rise when a glimmer of hope appears in the distance.
But there's something that takes more grit than stepping out onto a raging sea.
It's stepping out when . . .
The water isn't lashing at the boat.
The wind isn't raging and the night isn't dark.
The men aren't soaked to the skin, bone-weary from rowing, and scared they might not make it home.
It's stepping out of a watertight dinghy when your way out in the middle of a lake and the sun is sparkling off the water, the children are dangling their lines off the side and there's barely a wisp of wind to spoil the calm. It's when you're warm and dry and enjoying the day, and there's not a ghost in sight.
Maybe the greatest faith-heroes are those who are simply going about their normal day when suddenly they catch a glimpse of Jesus. They're landscaping their gardens and educating their kids, paying down mortgages and coaching the local soccer team. They're rising every morning to milk the cows and check the fences and tend the farm just like their fathers did before them. They're making beds because the grandchildren are coming over, they're planning the Summer break, they're meeting the deadlines.
When Jesus approaches in the midst of life-as-normal, and you're not even sure whether it's him, what's a man or woman to do? Because he's always doing something out of the ordinary, that's for sure, and what if the only response that takes even an ounce of faith, is to step out of your tidy world and start doing the same thing He is . . . ?
There are people all over the world who looked up from their relatively peaceful lives, perceived the Lord was up to something, and stepped out simply because if He was walking on water, they would too.
If He was rescuing sex-slaves, they would too.
If He was sitting with his people in refugee camps, they would too.
If He was reaching out to a disillusioned teen, they would too.
No one doubts it took incredible faith for Peter to step out of the boat that day. But perhaps the faith he showed some three years earlier, was just as great when a vaguely familiar man approached him as simply went about his normal life, mending his nets on his hometown seashore, and said, 'Follow Me.'
Today, Lord, we want to find you in our field of sight. Some of us are in trouble, and whatever it takes, we're ready to throw ourselves with abandon and come to you. Others of us are comfortable, we've weathered some storms in the past, but right now life is calm enough, and Lord–we want to live by faith too. Make us people who are ready to risk it all, not out of desperation, but because we've caught a glimpse of what you're up to, and we'll abandon it all to be in the scene of a miracle with You . . .