Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Today, while shopping, Hannah Grace brings me a shirt she “really, really, really” wants. It has a lifeguard symbol on it and says “My Lifeguard Walks On Water.” Ironically, for weeks and weeks now I’ve been working on a post that I cannot complete to my liking. I look at it every day, and just can’t get it to flow or make sense or have a point, or seem like anything more than ramblings. Nevertheless, this shirt today made me want to get it off my plate, or hard drive.
Recently, while perusing facebook I read a post that used the word “unwavering” to describe a mother whose son was dying and her faith. I was jealous of that word. I couldn’t take my eyes off it and read the post several times. I even googled the word to see what came up in the search which was mostly definitions, but upon reading that word in context it made an immediate and lasting impression. It’s been in my head. The root word means to vacillate between two choices; therefore the addition of the negative prefix would mean surety in one choice. It shows confidence in a decision or belief, it implies one cannot be persuaded or moved. The simple use of this word created a perception of this woman whom I’d never met of stability and strength. How did she attain that characteristic amidst one of the most horrifying evils of this earthly life. And, then, for it to describe her faith, an intangible element that is the result of spiritual maturity, understanding and acceptance of God’s will over her own. I felt small and weak when I read that word.
And, please, kind people, most of you do not know me, and I only want to waste one entry on this point: I do not like to be petted nor do I write to garner sympathy. In fact, I will almost be offended if you attempt to do so. My effort here is more to relay observations. Sometimes the observation will be about me or a situation or an event, but never to invite a response about myself specifically. I would really hate that, and would feel the need to be less open, which would make for a less genuine writing. With that said, I’ve had many people make such kind and generous comments about me that I feel guilty to say thank you. I know the struggle within my own heart and mind since Eli was diagnosed with cancer and it does not reflect those compliments paid. Nevertheless, they are appreciated because of the sincerity.
Through the winding turns of googling the word “unwavering” I came upon the apostle Peter. The account of Peter vehemently proclaiming his faith, and then denying he was one of Jesus’ followers is a classic example of “wavering.” But the story I’ve read the most recently is Peter walking on water… or sinking. The apostles see a figure walking on water toward their boat in the dusk of dawn and are afraid. Jesus tells them it is Him. Peter asks to walk on water, too. “’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?’” Matthew 14: 29-31. Why did he doubt? Setting aside all they had been through together, his faith wavers during a miracle. Peter is the one who asks to come out, gets out of the boat, and is walking on water ... IS walking on water and that is when he gets scared? He did'nt doubt before his feet hit the waves, his faith wavered after the miracle was in progress. And, as he sank he said “Lord,” indicating he knew it was Jesus and he knew it was Jesus who had the power to save him. Notice Jesus did not coddle Peter. I’m envisioning Jesus getting a little irritated. He didn’t say “Peter, calm down, I’ve got you. You are safe.” It seems to me that He is chastising Peter, saying, “You have got to be kidding. Peter, are you so weak that you can’t even maintain your faith in middle of a miracle.” Even when it is so obvious, even when Peter himself knows it is Jesus, Peter’s faith is weak. Peter, one of the most vocal and passionate apostles, is a devoted follower, even a defender. How was he even capable of doubt with so much proof around him. So, if Peter, who was at the transfiguration, could show such weakness, do I get a pass?
Then I think about this mother, who in her private darkness has felt the heat of Satan’s breath on her neck as she bowed her head. How is she then unwavering. She, a witness and victim to the touch of Evil, doesn’t flinch. How can she sustain such strength under this weight. I need to know. If Peter and I bend in a cool breeze, how is it that in a violent storm she is not moved.
One of my interests is physical fitness or the pursuit thereof, which I pursue at a lagging distance, nevertheless I chase, but specifically I enjoy weight-training. Very simply, to build/strengthen muscle, the muscle must be torn down and in the body’s effort to repair itself it builds stronger/more muscle. To tear down muscle, one must move more weight than he can actually move. One must lift/push/pull until the muscle gives out, and then do more. It’s those last two or three repetitions when burning lactic acid seeps out of the muscle fibers and your body shakes under the stress of the weight that are the most beneficial in building more muscle because that is when the muscle is the weakest. The reps leading up to the fatigue reps are just to maintain the strength that one has, and are a means by which to bring the muscle to that edge of weakness where growth will come. Just as one cannot know hunger until he has had no food. One cannot know fatigue until he has had no rest. One cannot know courage until he has been afraid. So, it seems to me that one cannot know strength until one has been weak.
Is this the only way to gain courage or strength. I’m asking. Does one have to stand toe to toe with the Evil One for a personal round of reality in order to grow emotional and/or spiritual strength. I’m going to say yes with an asterisk. I believe a person cannot live on this earth for a normal amount of years and never face an evil. Is that trial always public, always efficient, always convenient, always obvious? No. Sometimes Satan is nothing more than disruptive causing one to misstep. Many missteps can lead one down the wrong path to a dead end. Sometimes Satan can make the entire sky fall. The weight of the sky can pin a soul to the ground and wear down the will to lift it up. The former would be difficult to recognize and acknowledge is happening, which is part of the deceitful plan. Why go to God for help if one does not believe or know he needs help. To be honest about one’s weakness sometimes takes as much strength as reaching out for help from underneath a fallen sky.
And, please, do not mistake this post for a lesson of any kind or look for any answers at the end because there won’t be any. I know that most of you reading this are far beyond my understanding and are probably even confused as to why someone of my spiritual background could pose such basic and elementary thoughts. And, that’s all this post is, a compilation of recent thoughts and observations of thoughts that I’ve had during this spiritually taxing journey. So, I’m curious - why did Peter ask to walk on water. If he wasn’t sure the ghost-like figure was Jesus, why not ask for safer proof like make the wind be still. If it worked, great, if not then at least he’s still in the boat. When Peter was sinking and he called out “Lord, save me” was he showing weakness or strength. He didn’t try to swim and save himself. He didn’t turn toward the safety of the boat. He said “Lord, save me” because he knew it was Jesus and that Jesus had the power to save him. Jesus asked the question of Peter, “why did you doubt?” Doubt what? We’ve seen that Peter didn’t doubt that this was Jesus nor did he doubt the power of Jesus. The scripture says that Peter was afraid, which I’m sure means that he was afraid for his physical well-being out there walking on the whitecaps of the sea in the rising sunlight. He became distracted with what was happening around him. He did not become afraid until he took his focus off Jesus. Did Peter doubt his own faith, his own worth to be saved, maybe. I’m asking. Jesus knows Peter’s heart and said he was of little faith, but in Matthew 17: 20 Jesus also says that it only takes a mustard seed’s worth of faith to move a mountain. Yet, here, it’s not enough to walk on water. Could “little faith” here mean immature faith like one who has yet to be tested or weakened in order to grow an unwavering spirit. I’m asking. I feel a common bond with Peter in that he didn’t know how weak he was until he tried to walk on water. Obviously, Peter thought himself completely safe or he would not have taken that first step off the boat. Similarly, I’ve thought myself completely safe living a benign life not knowing how weak I was until I tried to lift a fallen sky. And, I understand that you give your burdens to God, let God lift a sky. But in this situation, Peter obviously fell short on his part of the deal because Jesus blamed Peter for sinking. One can’t just say, “Ok, God, here’s all my stuff, save me,” and do nothing themselves. There was an active participatory element that Peter was missing or let slip or didn’t understand. Thankfully, still Jesus stepped in and saved him despite Peter’s shortcomings. But what is that participatory element Peter was missing that would have eliminated the doubt. Was it related to his personality, his upbringing, his culture, or his intellect that caused him to lose focus. Ok, did I just really show my immaturity here, if so, I’m sorry, but thank you for indulging me yet again. The picture I’m including tonight is of Eli on the beach, playing with his cars and trucks along the canal that we dug.

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