Monday, August 4, 2014

Saying what we mean

Why does it seem that at times it is so hard for us to say what we mean?

Today we have the story in which the disciples in the middle of the night see Jesus walking in water toward them and Peter's response is,

Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.

Jesus then answers him, he starts out across the water and sinks. Jesus has to reach out and help him up and back into the boat. And utters the famous words,

O you of little faith, why did you doubt?

Some people mistakenly read this to mean that Peter had faith when he first got out of the boat and then his faith wavered. But look more closely.

Peter's faith is missing from the beginning. He starts the conversation with "Lord, if it is you". Like the others in the boat the scriptures tell us, he thought it was a ghost. He wasn't sure what he was seeing. But rather than own up to his doubt and fear, he decided to try and put Jesus to the test. He says "command me", but he says it in the imperative. That is, he commands Jesus to command him.

Commanding God is never a good idea. It would have been much simpler if Peter had simply acknowledged his doubt. When Jesus asks "Why do you doubt?", it is a rhetorical question. Jesus already knows the answer, he is trying to get Peter to be more self-aware.

The story tells us that when the disciples saw Jesus they were "troubled." (the word implies like pot of water at a rolling boil). I short, they were afraid. The fear created the doubt.

We all feel fear. On a rather regular basis things scare us, little things and big things. But like Peter, we often respond inappropriately.

If Jesus had wanted Peter to walk on water, he would have walked on water and not have sunk. Imagine if while in the boat, Peter would have been honest and self-aware enough to acknowledge his fear. If he had said something like , "Lord, I am troubled, please help me" or "Lord I am confused" or "Lord I don't understand". The problems is that all of those are expressions of weakness. And most of us are loathe to acknowledge our weakness. So instead, like Peter, we wrap it in bravado, so no one can see it.

Even if we can't always be honest about our feelings with the people around us, we should at least be honest in our prayer, be honest with ourselves and with God. Say what we are actually feeling. Acknowledge our weaknesses. And instead of telling God what to do, we should always ask God what we should do.