Sunday, January 19, 2014

Walking on Water

My husband was out of town one night several years ago, and as I was putting my oldest son to bed, who was just 3 years old at the time, I thought I would tell him a story from the scriptures to help him settle down and relax.  The story that came to mind was when Peter tried to walk on water to meet Jesus, who was coming towards them in the middle of the sea.

I had thought "tried" was the right word until that night.  Then it occurred to me that Peter had walked on water.  Peter had walked on water.

That was an amazing moment.  We might not be too impressed by Jesus walking on water, because we already know he had been healing people of all manner of illnesses and infirmities, and, plus, he was half-God.  Being a literal son of God the Father in the flesh, he was naturally endowed with special, sacred powers and abilities.  So, of course he could walk on water if he needed to or wanted to.

What struck me was the realization that someone as completely mortal as myself was recorded as walking on water.  Suddenly that seemed to imply something about myself.

Matthew describes that he, Peter, and other disciples were sent by Jesus out onto the Sea of Galilea in a ship to sail to the other side.  In the meantime, he would disburse the crowd that had gathered and then go up into the hills to pray by himself (Matthew 14).

Unexpectedly, in the middle of the night, the disciples on watch -- and perhaps everyone was awake anyway with how "contrary" the winds were -- noticed a figure coming towards them, a figure that was walking across the billowy waves unphased.  Fear filled their hearts as they believed it was a spirit approaching, but when Jesus called out to them and revealed his identity, Peter replied, "Lord, it if be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water" (v. 28).

Peter had witnessed numerous miracles of healing at Jesus' hands.  He knew that Jesus had some very special powers and abilities.  And having spent so much time with him, listening to him and learning from him, Peter knew that Jesus was a man without guile, full of compassion and kindness, someone who was completely trustworthy.  Even -- could it really be so? -- the promised Messiah!

Verse 29 continues, "And he said, Come.  And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus."

We know the rest of the story; that Peter broke his concentration on the Savior and began to notice the wind and the waves, and his faith wavered, allowing fear to impede him and almost drown him.  Peter then called out to the Lord to save him as he began to sink.

    "And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
    And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased" (vs. 31 and 32).

Experiencing and witnessing this, everyone that was on the ship came and worshipped Jesus saying, "Of a truth thou art the Son of God" (v. 33).  Who can walk on water?, they must have reasoned.  Only a divine being could do that!

But, Peter did.  We don't know how many steps he took or how far from the ship he got, but his faith was powerful and incredible and resided in a mortal man's heart and mind!  So, what about me?  This sacred experience tells me that, like Peter, though mortal from both parents, I'm not doomed to fail.  My spirit was created first by Exalted Beings, therefore, it is within me to succeed.  My flesh might be weak, but it can learn.  I can gain experience in the times I fear and fall, and have the Savior's hand stretched out to me to lift me up.  I can look back and realize that I did make progress during my up times, and I can have confidence that I can keep going forward.

Not only that, but that I can overcome major obstacles.  I can.  I can.  The atonement, that beloved enabling power, is the "can" in "I can" and makes all things possible for me.  I might not ever need to walk on water during my life, but I have many challenges and weaknesses that I desperately want to rise above and walk confidently over.  I realize how often I limit myself because I think something is too hard or I am too weak or it's just not possible.

I limit my access to the atonement (Christ's power) and also discount the power endowed upon me (in small measure at birth when I came with the light of Christ, and then in great measure through temple covenant making).

In remembering that Peter walked on water, I am taught that I can overcome any obstacle -- if I just refuse to doubt the power given to me from God through Jesus Christ, my Savior.

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