There is a comfort zone in the familiar, but there is a calling to step out of the boat and find a little something to stand on.
There’s always a call to step out of the boat.
The other day I was cleaning some items off a pinboard and came across a printout of my first receipt of money for a book I had sold on Gumroad. It happened back in 2015, and I remember that moment well. The amazement that someone would buy my book.
The paper is something tangible. I can feel that paper between my fingers, like my feet, can feel a stepping stone buried slightly under the surface of a pond I might walk on.
I’ve had many other moments of provision for me as I have taken this faith journey. Sometimes it’s a financial gift or donation, but mostly it has been the provision of work in people’s gardens. It’s always a risk to write. To put my ideas out into the world. It still is, but a compelling YES drove me to write a few words each week and to share my stepping out of the boat.
Stepping out of the boat
Peter walking on water is a beautiful story of faith journeying. Of moments of fear replaced by deeper connection.
It’s a story of taking a tentative step out of the boat of the known into the unknown.
As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.
Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared to death. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.
But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come ahead.”
Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”
Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”
The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!” Matthew 14:22-33
Some questions for you to think about this story.
- What’s your boat?
What is normal for you? Your patterns, habits, comfort zone?
- Is there a call for you to step out of that boat?
- What happens to you when a storm rises and threatens you and your boat?
Do you get frightened, depressed, excited? What feelings arise?
- What fears keep you in your boat of comfort?
- What would Jesus be calling you to change but has an element of risk?
- What fears so easily distract you and potentially could cause you to sink?
- How far are you willing to leave your boat before you want to rush back?
- Imagine stepping stones suddenly rising and appearing under the water as you placed your feet on the surface. How many occurrences of feeling their solidness would it take for you to accept this as the new norm?
A collection of stepping stones
Recently I have taken a step out of the boat of my normal. It’s huge and scary.
At times I have felt myself sinking into the emotional storms of life. Wild and stormy, the winds of change can cause me to shift my focus away from the Christ to the randomness of weather.
I can get overwhelmed by the change. It’s the challenge of the mystery. The unlearning of the old and familiar and learning the new and unfamiliar. A moving from certainty to uncertainty.
But what has been interesting is the provision of little stepping stones under my wobbly feet. Little things. Little verses from the Bible that seemed to speak directly to me, ‘This is for you.’ Comments from friends. Podcasts I have listened to.
I realize now that God has been providing stepping stones ‘under the surface of each step I have taken. I have to be listening for those moments of ‘Come, take the next step’ and feeling Christs hand reach out when it all becomes too much.
Faith is a journey of micro faith moments where we take a millimeter step from one moment to the next until the brain accepts this as the new normal. We don’t want to return to the old boat because we’re now dancing on the waves.
Recording the stones
Our memory can get so beaten down by the storms of life that we lose sight of God’s past provision for us.
God invites us to notice the little moments of stepping stones and record them.
We see this happening in the story of the people of Israel crossing the Jordan river.
When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua:
‘Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe, and command them, “Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood, carry them over with you, and lay them down in the place where you camp tonight.”‘
Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each tribe.
Joshua said to them, ‘Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, one for each of the tribes of the Israelites, so that this may be a sign among you.
When your children ask in time to come, “What do those stones mean to you?” then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial for ever.’ Joshua 4:1-7
I don’t have stones, but I have small business cards where I have written down the moment when I felt a stepping stone rise under my feet.
Little reminders. Microscopically brain neuron-sized small stones. Tangible ink on a tangible card in my unique handwritten scrawl.
I carry them in my pocket for those times when I start to feel the storms bash against my brain.
I pull them out and read them aloud—reminders for my inner frightened child to be reassured by.
I then take that next step, knowing there will be a stepping stone underneath.
My focus shifts away from the boat of past comfort, away from storms and wild waves, to a mysterious dance happening in front of me. There is a desire to take that next step and find strength under my feet.
Quotes to consider
- Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart. Joshua Heschel
- Faith is not the opposite of doubt. Faith is the opposite of certitude. Where you don’t need to be certain to be happy. If you can’t go there, you’ll never be happy because you’ll never get logical certitude. If you’re waiting for 100% certitude, you’re never going to happy. Richard Rohr.
- To accept some degree of meaninglessness is our final and full act of faith that God is still good and still in control. Richard Rohr
- All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another. Anatole France
- Nothing digs ditches like shovel fulls of dirt Rick Hanson
- A good journey begins with knowing where we are and being willing to go somewhere else. Richard Rohr
Questions to consider
- Where has God provided for you in the past day that you can record as a kind of memorial stone?
- What is a comfort zone boat that the Christ might want you to leave?
- Think of the memorial stone moments in your life. Why are those moments so significant for you, and what promise do they offer for the ‘walking on water’ invitations?