We’re singing “Oceans” this Sunday. It’s a song I typically lead. I’ll be brutally honest right here and tell you I’m not exactly thrilled at the prospect of singing this one again. I like to believe what I’m singing, and the thought of asking God to “take me deeper” makes me want to crawl into a hole and never come out. I already feel like I’m swallowing salty, thirst-inducing water most of the time as it is. I realize there is nothing God-honoring about this thought process. Perfect love drives out fear, and so none of my actions should be led by terror at being walked through even harder things.
I’ve wrestled with the Lord over this a good bit, and I’ve heard Him whisper to me many times to read about Peter walking on water. I’ve done the super Jesus-loving thing here. . .and completely ignored that prompting, being careful to avoid all passages that could possibly land me near the ones pertaining to that particular moment. . .until recently.
I found myself reading the story over and over again, surprised by something I haven’t really taken notice of before now. “Oceans” is based on this story, you know. The story where Peter walks on water with Jesus, looks away, sinks, and Jesus scoops him up out of the depths. The song begins with the words, “You call me out upon the waters”, but in the story, it’s Peter who calls out to God first. In the bible, the disciples are out on a boat when they see what they think is a ghost. Jesus calls out to them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid!” Then, Peter (I love this so much!), Peter replies, “Lord , if it’s you…tell me to come to you on the water.” You guys, did you catch that? Read it again. Read it with intention of understanding the character of God and the nature of man. The disciples are in the middle of a lake when they see Jesus walking on the water and their immediate assumption is that it must be a ghost, even though they know they left Jesus stranded on an island a short time before, even though they know who He is and have seen Him do miraculous things. They respond in fear and Jesus does not hesitate but instead responds immediately to quiet their fears. “Don’t be afraid! It is I.” And when Jesus reveals himself to be exactly who He says He is, Peter asks Him to prove Himself even further still. Do you hear the doubt here? “If it’s you…”
“If it’s you, Lord, reveal yourself to me. Show me who you are. Prove yourself to me by doing what I’m asking of you! I don’t care that you just turned meager morsels of food into a feast for thousands. I’ve forgotten the thrill of that moment, because in this moment, I’m afraid. My fear is bigger than who you’ve already proved yourself to be just a few hours ago. If it’s really you, then call me out, Lord! Make me like you! Let me participate in this miracle so that this time I might REALLY believe, so that this time my faith won’t waiver and my fear won’t consume me when I can no longer see you clearly. Tell me to come to you, because I haven’t the strength or faith to step out on my own!”
In response, Jesus says the simplest, most poignant word:
He just says, “Come”. How simple a command. How complex a longing. Because I ask God all the time to use me. I do. I ask Him to come. I ask Him to call me out. Then fear cripples me and I find myself wondering if the man I see approaching me in all of His miraculous glory is who He says He is, and I scream out in terror the same words a bunch of Jesus-followers did centuries ago: “It’s a ghost!” And just as He did then for the disciples, Jesus does not hesitate to remind me of who He is, and beckons me, “Come.” With feeble, trembling legs, I step out onto the water, each step I take as firm as though I were walking on solid ground…and then, in a moment, a gust of wind wisps by, startles me, and I blink, losing sight of Jesus again…the fear, the doubt, the confusion overwhelms me, and down I sink into the salty abyss. I cry out, “Lord, save me!”, and immediately, Jesus reaches out His hand and catches me. He leads me back to the fabricated safety of the boat made by human hands and climbs in Himself. The storm stops when He gets in the boat, because He is near and in control. Then He asks me, “You of little faith. . .why did you doubt?”
I find it interesting that we aren’t given Peter’s response here. I wonder if it’s because he didn’t have a verbal response? I wonder about Peter in this moment just as I wonder about how I would respond. If we’re using this story as an analogy of where I’ve been, then I would tell you that I wouldn’t be able to conjure up words either. The Lord has pulled me out of despair so often now, and each time, he cups my face in his hands, looks me in the eyes and asks me the same questions:
“Why are you doubting me, Ashley? Have I not proven to you my character? Have you forgotten who I am again? Have you forgotten that I do not change? Have you forgotten my power? My steadfast faithfulness? Don’t you recognize me?”
I’m telling you this, because I don’t want people to read the things I write here and develop a false idea of who I am based on the snippets of life I give you. I want you to see that I am terribly human, that I fail miserably to love God in the way that I should and to trust Him to do what He says He will do. I struggle. Jesse does, too. We’re just a couple of sinner-humans striving to lay down everything we are at the feet of a God who has not failed us for a moment. We want to be used by Him. Desperately. Whatever that looks like. And we fail every day to really surrender to His will in our lives. We struggle, friends, just as you do. You are not alone in your fight to surrender.
So this Sunday, I will sing. I will say the words I have frequently feared. I will call out to the Lord in the midst of a storm where darkness has frequently veiled His clear image to my human eyes. I will ask Him to lead me to where my trust has no limits, to let me walk alongside Him, trusting that He will not let one step fall on unstable ground, knowing that I will only wander onto the depths when I wander there beside Him. And whenever the raging storm distracts me and I lose my focus, He will scoop me up out of my despair and lead me back to the boat. He will cup my face and I will look into His eyes and remember that I have no reason to fear because He is who He says He is, and when He bids me, “Come”, He is calling me out not into deep waters, but onto them.
“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
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.”
-We had scans and an oncology appointment on the 10th. The scans showed no new growth, and it appears that, though very slight, the tumor has receded in places. Because of this, we are NOT doing chemo at this time. Praise God!!
-We still need your prayers, friends, probably more desperately now than before. There is a weariness we exist in these days that is difficult to explain. Months of fighting has left us exhausted and some days it’s just hard to wake up to our reality. God is still bigger. We still trust Him. We are just oh so tired.
-We are adjusting seizure medications again in hopes that some of the side effects will dissipate and we will gain better control of his seizures. Will you pray with us that this will mark the end of Jesse’s fight against seizures? While the types of seizures he is having are not exactly dangerous, they leave scarring in the brain, and he does not need any more injury there.
-Healing is a grueling process. As Jesse’s brain reconnects wires and his understanding grows, the reality of everything can become overwhelming for him at times. Pray for this man I love, people, that the Lord will replace fear with hope and sorrow with joy. He is healing beautifully, but it has given new definition to the word “hard” for him.
-As always, pray for Jesse’s body and brain to fight the tumor on its own with the help of the immunotherapy he is taking. We have seen the Lord do miraculous things and we wait expectantly to see the miraculous works of His hands in our lives in the future. God is in this. We are certain He has not called us out without intention.