I love water.
More specifically, I love water outdoors. If I could be on or in it every day, I would be. I grew up on an island, and while it wasn’t quite the endless summer, there was no shortage of time spent in the water.
When I went to college, I chose the mountains: it was as far from home as I could get and still be afforded in-state costs. But I was never more than a short drive and hike from moving water.
There is peace in water, but there is also power. I find it amazing how something essential to life can just as easily take it. It’s a fact you never take for granted growing up around water, whether surfing, swimming, fishing, or boating.
And few things take water from potentially dangerous to deadly quicker than a good storm. Storms overwash beaches, flood rivers, destroy homes, and, most unfortunately, take lives. Especially when on or near water, storms are nothing to take lightly.
And then there’s Jesus.
I love this story. After a long day teaching parables, Jesus decides that he and his disciples should cross the lake for the night. A surprise storm pops up, and here we get our first real glimpse of Hero-Jesus: steely eyed, clenched teeth, his face cut by the razor-sharp rain, single-handedly steering the boat through the wind and waves while the disciples struggle to hold onto the railings and their dinners.
Nope. That’s not what we get at all. We get Bro-Jesus: “Yo, Peter! John! We good? I’m gonna go snag some ZZ’s in the back. Wake me up when we get there.” And the disciples are freaked. Several of them are fishermen. They know how dangerous a situation they are in. And where is their fearless leader?! Sawing logs with his head on a cushion.
So they wake him up. “Jesus! We’re gonna die!”
Then, in typical Jesus fashion, he does something amazing, says something confusing, and walks away (presumably humming a Gordon Lightfoot tune as he did – Happy November 10!): he calms the storm, challenges the faith of his disciples, and then probably went back to sleep, leaving mouths wide open in wonder.
We get caught up in the power of the moment just like the disciples did. We’re left standing there in amazement at what just happened, but what is the real truth of this story?
I don’t imagine Jesus yelling angrily, either at the storm or his disciples. I imagine him calm, but firm in his rebuke of the storm. “Quiet. Be still.” Then again to his friends, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” He doesn’t affirm their Kingdom authority over the storm (even though they had it), and he doesn’t even try to utilize what so many pastors call, “teachable moments.”
The truth of the situation is one that many people miss: Jesus was never worried about the storm. He didn’t wake from his slumber surprised and terrified.
We miss the grace in this story: the storm was never the threat to their faith, their fear was. He didn’t calm the storm to sleep better, he did it to show his love to the disciples. If the storm was the problem, they would have been filled with a supernatural peace and comfort, maybe celebrated a little bit, and gone on their way, probably hiding their insecurities along the way. “Yeah that wave was huge, but I wasn’t afraid, not like John over there.” “Shut up James! I wasn’t puking, I was leaning over the railing to check for barnacles.” But no. They were still terrified, just of something, someone, different. Someone stronger than the strongest force they could imagine. They didn’t trust him.
Which is our problem all along: we don’t trust Him. We know more about the storm we’re facing than he does. Never mind that He knows that the ship is solid, and her captain capable. He’s sleeping! He’s not even paying attention! What the hell is wrong with Him?! Jesus, DO SOMETHING!
He will. He’ll calm the storm, or send provision, or whatever else grace you may need or think you need. Because it’s what He does. His grace is sufficient, and He sees you where you are.
But what if, instead thinking we know exactly what we need, and trying to occupy ourselves making it happen, we look to see what God is doing in the midst of our storm? Maybe He is calling us to do something about our situation. But, maybe, just maybe, He’s not worried about the storm. Maybe He’s encouraging us to see what it is He’s doing at the moment and join Him in it.
I think I’d like to go take a nap near some water.