Are there certain characters in the Bible in which you can see yourself?
I’m not talking about the mental image we conjure up of what their physical appearance may have been, but character or personality similarities. You read a story and cry or laugh or shake your head because that’s something you would do or say.
There are different times in my life when, depending on what I was going through at the time, I have identified on a deeply personal level with different Bible characters.
I have understood the nerves and feelings of unworthiness of the task that lay before Moses as he argued his position with God. I have rejoiced with Ruth when the Lord brought me my Boaz. I have laughed with Sarah at some promises that seem impossible. I have wept with Hannah and Rachel over the desire for children. I have worshipped with Mephibosheth that a King would choose to overlook my past and bring me into His family. I have been broken with David and wept over my sins.
There is one person in the New Testament I keep coming back to. Every time I’m reading and this name pops up, it’s like looking in a mirror.
I wish I could say I see myself in the strength of John the Baptist, the quiet confidence of Elisabeth, the compassion of Barnabas, the unyielding obedience of Paul, or the steadfast determination of Stephen…but I cannot.
No, the character who so closely mirrors aspects of my personality is none other than Peter. Dear, sweet, rash, say-whatever-comes-to-mind, talk-more-than-listen, act-first-and-think-later Peter. Perhaps some of you see yourself in him as well?
While there are many instances where I can easily interject myself into his story, I keep going back to the time Peter walked on the water. This story can be found in Matthew 14:23-33. Jesus goes unto a mountain to pray and sends His disciples into a ship. During the night, while the disciples were battling a storm on the sea, Jesus came walking on the water. Once they realized it was the Lord and not a spirit, good old impulsive Peter asked to walk on the water with Jesus. After he was told to come, he hopped off the boat and began walking…but he couldn’t keep his eyes on the Lord. He started looking around at the wind and the waves. His focus shifted to everything going on around him, and he began to sink.
Lately, I’ve been drowning with Peter.
Our life has been crazy busy these past several months. Between juggling work, college, adoption stuff, a husband, a house, and church, I’ve been failing.
Without going into specifics, I feel like I am trying to do so many things that I’m not doing anything well…and that kills me. Pardon me while I let my nerd flag fly for a moment, but I keep being reminded of a quote from Bilbo Baggins:
“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”
I recently heard someone say that when a rubber band is pulled so tightly and stretched so much, it’s going to snap…even if it’s a Christian rubber band.
I snapped a little bit last week. Things got to be too much, and I just couldn’t handle it. I was so overwhelmed with guilt over the failures that are present in every area of my life right now that I got that panicky, drowning, I-can’t-do-any-of-this feeling.
My attention wasn’t where it should have been. Like Peter, I was standing on top of the water, looking at the winds and the waves and the circumstances that would cause anyone to fear and panic if they weren’t looking at the Master of the wind, instead of thanking Him for allowing me to walk on the water in the first place…and like Peter, I began to sink.
Well, what could I do?
I have plans to scale back and limit the amount of stress I volunteer for in my life after this school year, but that won’t help me right now. I still have responsibilities until the middle of June.
No, I could cry and scream and fuss about my circumstances, but complaining about drowning does a drowning man no good. So, I did what Peter did.
“But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.”
When he realized the seriousness of his predicament, he saw that he could do nothing for himself. He’s just Peter. Peter should not have been able to walk on water in the first place. Jesus was the One who made this miracle possible, and Jesus was the only One who could help him now.
It’s still hard for me to swallow sometimes that there are things I can’t fix, things I need or want that I can do nothing about. When it gets to the point where I’m beginning to drown, I realize I can’t help myself. Anything I try to do is only going to make it worse, so along with Peter, I cry, “Lord, save me.”
I love this next part. Jesus didn’t give Peter a lecture about how if he had kept his eyes on Him the whole time, he never would’ve gotten into this mess. He didn’t take His time getting there to teach Peter a lesson. No, Jesus did what Jesus always does.
“And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him…”
He did reprimand Peter for his little faith later, but He saved him first.
When I found myself drowning last week and cried out for help, Jesus did what Jesus always does. Sure, I got the reprimand later, but He reached out and caught me first.
The Lord sure is a lot more kind and compassionate to us than we are to others. Whereas our initial instinct is often to deny immediate assistance so as to “teach a lesson,” Christ knows that sometimes allowing us to have our way and realize we can’t do it without Him is enough of a lesson. He doesn’t kick us when we’re down, but He lifts us up and speaks gentle truth to our hearts.
I, for one, am so glad that God chose a Peter and put so many instances of Peter’s faults and stumblings in the Bible…because God knew He would choose a Naomi who would fail time and time again and would need to be reminded of the long-suffering mercy of the Lord.
Next time you find yourself drowning in the middle of your circumstances, remember Peter. But more than that, remember the Christ that is willing to reach out and save you.
Life is chaotic. I totally get it…but don’t drown in the chaos of this life.
When Jesus and Peter got back into the ship, the Bible says the winds stopped. The Lord has the ability to pull us out and make the storm calm. He is sufficient for anything we are going to face.
Look to Him. Cry out to Him. Then after He rescues you, dust yourself off, and keep following Him.