My children and I have recently discovered the glory of the trampoline park industry that booms in major cities. There’s a particular park in Richardson that we enjoy going to on a regular basis. At this park, there are two special features: the first is a battle beam that transcends a foam pit, and the second is a trapeze that swings out over a similar foam pit. My older child is fairly fearless when it comes to the trapeze. We attended a birthday party in June at this park, and she was on the trapeze for at least an hour. Perhaps it is the feeling of freedom she attained from swinging repeatedly, or perhaps it was the security in knowing she wouldn’t hurt herself when she let go of the bar; either way, she kept returning time and again to this feature.
The beam, on the other hand, had only one chance to impress her. Mind you, the battle beam feature also comes with the opportunity to shove your opponent off the beam into the foam pit in order to traverse the beam. Although my daughter is fearless when it comes to the trapeze, the possibility of someone hitting her off the beam into the same style foam pit was terrifying. She even grew anxious when she was the only person on the beam—the narrow, long and difficult road to the other side was scarier than sailing through the air at twelve feet above the foam pit of the trapeze. Halfway through her trip across the beam, with no threat of someone knocking her off, she jumped into the foam pit of her own volition.
How often do we find ourselves in a similar situation… walking along a narrow and difficult path and instead of trusting that we will make it to the other side with a bit of concentration and hard work, we sabotage ourselves with self-doubt, distractions, and isolation. Much like Peter in Matthew’s Gospel lesson for this week, we let something as simple as a gust of wind distract us from the reward of walking with Jesus on the water. Don’t get me wrong, I, too, would be terrified if I was on the boat—a storm arises on the sea and is overcoming the boat, not to mention the fact that someone is walking on the water toward the boat. But I am not sure I would have the guts to test the waters myself.
Peter, on the other hand, is just that gutsy. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” This may well be the first theological bargain we hear about, but we know from personal experience it is not the last—God, if you help me pass the test… God, if you help my team win… God, if you take away the cancer… God, if you make it stop hurting… God, if you can fix my marriage… God, if you will heal my child…
And Jesus bids him, “Come.” But not without hard work and concentration and focus. How can we walk on water in the midst of a storm? Well, we must be as gutsy as Peter is, but more trusting of the one who calls to us in the storm. We cannot expect Jesus to do all the work, either: we should expect to work harder than ever before, focus more on God’s presence within the storm, and remember who it is that is calling us in the midst of the chaos. We can’t let the fear that comes from walking across the narrow and difficult path determine whether we jump off of the beam or stay on—we must remain focused on who is on the other side of that beam cheering us on.