About 3 ½ years ago, just before Marcus’ first birthday, I was taking some much needed time away. Marcus and I had flown out to Arizona to see my sister, and she had volunteered to take Marcus for a few hours while I did, amazingly, whatever I wanted.
To be honest, during the first year of Marcus’ life, it was hard.
Most of the time to myself was spent sleeping and the time I was able to devote in prayer – was pretty much focused on survival. Help me get through the week or the day – or the hour. Help me to focus. Help me to sleep. Help me. Please Lord, help me.
But on this day, I found myself in a unique place.
I had finally had some rest. I had had some time to myself. And my head felt clearer than it had in a long time. And so – when I prayed that day,
I asked God a question.
A question I hadn’t asked God in a while – because I had been so focused on my own experience of becoming a new mother. And surviving it.
what is it that you want me to be focusing on?
What is next?
I had no sooner uttered this prayer, than a word popped into my mind almost immediately.
It was so immediate and so sudden that I was taken aback.
Where did that word come from?
It wasn’t the first time I’d thought about it, but it had been years since I had even entertained the idea.
But there it was
Huh. I thought. That was not what I was expecting. Plus, I just had a baby. I’m not looking to add to the family right now.
But there it was.
So when I came home from Arizona, I talked to my husband – only to find out that he had also been thinking about it and was very open to the idea.
And the more we sat with it – prayed about it – and talked through it with people – it became more and more clear. This was something we were being called to do.
Many of you know that this summer we were matched with a 6-year old boy, Eugene and that this month and next he is in the process of transitioning into our home out of foster care. He is with us half of the week, attending school, and is spending the other half in Youngstown.
We are joyful and hopeful – but in the three and a half years since I first heard that call –
I can tell you that nothing of the process –
went the way I thought it would.
When I stepped out of the boat and began walking on this path – I had this idea in my head… about the timing, about what it would look like ,what kind of child we would be matched with, what the process would be like, and how prepared we would be.
And you can all laugh because you know – that none of it – none of it, has happened the way I thought it would.
And at every step of the way, when what I thought and planned to happen has in fact, not happened – it throws me into a bit of a crisis. Now, what do I do? Maybe this was a bad idea. Maybe this isn’t what God wanted for us. Maybe I heard wrong.
Could I really trust God to see this through?
And even this week – I’ve been asking – am I really going to be able to do this? Can I trust you God?
Walking into a place of uncertainty – whether we chose the path or whether it found us – sooner or later we’re going to come face to face with the idea of trust.
Can I really trust that all will be well? Even though I cannot see the other side to which I am traveling? What if it is really, really bad?
Perhaps I should just stay in my boat. It’s what I know.
Do I really trust God?
Scientists have done recent studies on our brains and the way that we make decisions. And what they have discovered, which shouldn’t surprise any of us – is that our brains are wired for predictability. We are genetically set up to avoid situations of uncertainty. To create rhythms of familiarity – to give ourselves the perspective that we are in control and managing the things in our lives.
And so the ability to walk into situations that are new – that are unpredictable – that are uncertain… it is a skill that gets honed and developed over time.
It is never our default place. We will always prefer to stay in the boat.
I think Peter knew a little something about himself in this area.
Peter has been a gung ho kind of disciple from the beginning. He is a speak first and ask questions later kind of guy – and he is often finding himself getting into trouble because of this.
But on this night – when he sees Jesus coming out onto the water… he knows he wants to go where Jesus is – he wants to walk out on the water.
But he needs some assurance – he isn’t just going to jump in.
He says to Jesus –
“Order me / Command me – to come out onto the water.”
He’s not asking for an invitation – he’s asking for a commandment.
It’s as if he knows –
“Everything in me is telling me that walking on that water – is crazy. It is a BAD IDEA.
So Command me. Tell me I must – Tell me I must leave my comfort zone – I must step out onto the waves – tell me I must walk toward you – because on my own volition - I will never leave the safety of this boat.”
Command me – to come out of the boat – and onto this water.
Because if you do – then maybe, just maybe, I can do it.
This month we have been talking about what it means to be a person who is growing in our giving. What it means to be a person who is becoming more generous in our ability to share our resources. During the first week of the month, we did an activity where we modeled this resource sharing – and talked about what it takes to think bigger and broader about giving – not just about our money but also about our talents our resources – our time – and our knowledge.
But if we are honest – our ability to give – our ability to be generous – isn’t just about whether we possess something. It isn’t just about the $$ in our bank account, the knowledge in our brains, or the stuff in our houses. Fundamentally – our ability to be generous with our resources – comes down to our ability to TRUST.
It comes down to our ability to think outside of the predictability that our brain so desperately longs for – and to say – that – while I do not know what the future brings – I am going to choose the irrational choice - to share this resource that I have – because I TRUST – that I will be OK. That God will care for me – that I will have what I need – and that my community will lift me up if the necessity comes.
Letting go of one thing – before you have picked up the next thing.
That I can step out of the boat with confidence.
Now at this point – people like to remind me –
Now, April – let’s remember, that it wasn’t all hunky-dory when Peter got out of the boat. It wasn’t like the clouds parted and the rain stopped and a huge rainbow appeared and there was a golden finish line with Chariots of Fire playing and a huge crowd of angels cheering in slow motion– Peter – you can do it! And then he crosses the finish line and they all lift him over head and Jesus reaches out his hand – and says – I knew you could do it! And the crowd is all chanting – Peter! Peter!
No sooner was he to take a few steps than he looked down at the waves and he saw the wind – and he started to sink.
So, what’s the point of getting out of the boat – if we’re just going to sink?
It’s a good question.
A couple of things –
- When did Peter start to sink?
When he began to doubt himself and Jesus. K
- What happened immediately?
Jesus reached out his hand.
It reminds me of the time my father was teaching me to ride my bike –
We took off the training wheels and my father would run with me – his hand on the back of the bike –
And when I would start to get it –
Without saying a word, He would let go –
and I would be moving forward and then I would look down below me and see that I was moving fast and that my dad, who was still running beside me wasn’t holding on – and the first few times I would realize that – I would lose all confidence – and
I would falter.
My father never let me crash and burn –
But each time, he would say – you had it – why did you doubt?
This business of getting out of our boat – taking a step on the water, trying to follow where Jesus is leading us – it isn’t something we do just once.
Part of the beauty of this story is that it seems that
Jesus knows that our ability to walk out onto the water – is something we have to practice. Getting out of the boat is one thing – but standing on the waves, even when the wind is blowing in our face. Continuing to walk forward in trust.
We aren’t likely to get that right the first time around.
And so, while Jesus knows that we prefer the boat – and that we get tripped out and afraid when we see the waves and winds, he keeps saying to us –
Come on out –
Let’s try this again.
Not just about the big stuff – but about the daily stuff.
– Jesus asks people to step out of the boat – out of their comfort zone – to a place where they must trust God and where the outcome isn’t clear.
Practicing – letting go and trusting – that God will help to provide what is most necessary.
And our job is to keep practicing. To keep letting go.
To get back on the bike – or back out of the boat.
To let go – and trust a little more each day -
So where do you need to PRACTICE TRUST? To go against the part of your brain that prefers the safe and predictable, so that you can practice letting go and trusting God.
For some of us – it’s our money –
Last week, Jason Leighton shared with us a story about the call he’s been experiencing from God – to fully trust God with his finances. And he put his tithe in the offering plate last week – and I invite you to ask him what happened.
For some of us – it’s our time –
We feel so overwhelmed by the mountain of things that we must do – and so we don’t trust that if we try to sleep, or care for ourselves, or spend time with friends, or give some of our time away to someone who needs a caring ear –
We struggle to trust that it will be OK. And we run ourselves ragged in the process.
For some of us – it’s our ability to be generous in relationship –
Maybe we don’t trust enough to actually be vulnerable with people about what is really going on. Maybe we’re worried about what they will think – or whether people will reject us – or whether – if we’re a pastor – having a hard week – maybe – I should just try to make it look like I have it all together – when I don’t.
Can we trust God enough to share ourselves? To ask for help – and to be authentic?
This can start to get pretty personal. And we can start to get a little antsy – when preachers start poking around this stuff.
But friends, this is where Jesus seems to want us to be.
Thinking and wrestling with what it really means to be a disciple – how to listen to the command to get out of our boats and walk forward.
We have to practice daily – letting go of the things that we think – give us security and predictability and safety.
And to TRUST – even on the weeks and days when it is really hard - that what Jesus calls us to – will have all of those things and more.
If we want to be more generous givers in the world – to follow Jesus with more faithfulness, we are going to have to learn how to trust
May it be so – that you might grow this week.