I remember running races where it all came together: the training, the mindset, the perfect amount of coffee, the warm up, the start, the laps. I remember the feeling of getting that groove, of focusing outside of myself and knowing I could do this. I remember the miles ticking down. I remember hitting each lap consistently at the time I was supposed to. I remember watching my pacers back before she dropped off and let me do the rest of the hard work. I remember crossing that finish line and knowing I had done it.
I also remember the gajillion races before that when the gun went off and I looked around. I felt the bad days deep in my muscles. I felt the comparison of this girl and that girl. I felt my breath getting shorter in my chest and knew I was too tired, too weak, and too something to go faster. I remember thinking of all the things I hadn’t done and couldn’t do when I got there. And I remember as I thought these things, falling further and further behind. And then, giving up.
I was looking around too often. I had the workouts under my belt, I had the capabilities to go faster, but I didn’t believe I could do it. I had very few races when it all came together in college because I couldn’t silence the voices. I couldn’t believe that I had it in me every time I stepped up to that starting line. I couldn’t believe that I was improving and making progress and reaching goals. I could only believe that I was not capable.
I was like Peter as he walked out onto the water. Those first few laps I stared at what I knew to be true. I clung to the idea that I could do this. And then, like Peter, I looked around. I saw the failure, I saw what could happen, I saw what could go wrong, what was going wrong, and I sunk. I sunk deeper and deeper until I finished with a disappointing time and place, and a litany of excuses.
Peter walked out on that water in confidence. He walked out onto that water staring at Jesus. He knew without a doubt that he could walk on the water because Jesus could. He trusted that God could hold him over and above the wind and the waves. God could carry him out and over all the bad circumstances and he could walk above it all. He looked into the secure eyes of Jesus and knew he could do it.
And then Peter looked around.
Why? Why do we do it? Why do we look around at our circumstances? Why do we allow the uncertainty, the chaos, the naysayers to get under our skin and convince us that we are sinking? They convince us that we can’t do it. We can’t walk that far and that high above the crazy waters; we will not make it.
We read verses that say “with God all things are possible,” “he will never leave us or forsake us,” he’ll give us “immeasurably more,” an “abundant life.” We are buoyed, we are confident, but then we look around. We see the news, we see the posts on Facebook, we look at our messy kitchen, at our fighting children, and we start to sink. We are consumed by the waves.
And yet, when Peter was consumed by the waves, he called out to Jesus. In one last ditch effort to survive he called out to Jesus. And Jesus didn’t say “Just look at me Peter, c’mon, what are you doing?” He didn’t berate Peter, or look down on him, or mistrust his loyalty. He simply held out his hand and pulled him out. He pulled him out of the circumstances and up out of the waves.
When we are consumed, Jesus can pull us out. We have to ask. We have to acknowledge that we’re no longer looking in the right places. Our eyes are no longer on Jesus. We are consumed by circumstances. We need to learn to say “Lord, save me!” Instead of drowning ourselves in social media, or Netflix, or Oreos, we need to cry out to Him. We need to reset. We need to pray, ask a friend to pray, read our bible, listen to a worship song. We need to reach out for Jesus’ hand, and know and trust that he’ll pull us out.
Throughout those successful races I kept my eyes on the prize. I kept my eyes on what I knew to be the truth. I kept my eyes on what was inside, and what I knew could propel me to success: my training, my pacer, the finish line, the time on the watch. In our lives, it is Jesus; it is only Jesus. He is our prize, he is our Savior, he is the only one who can walk on this crazy water. Furthermore, he is the only one who has walked on this crazy water, and is currently walking ahead of us.
We are in a storm right now. There is chaos around us: the pandemic, racial injustice, homeschooling our kids, missing our family and friends, hoarding of supplies, cancellation of vacations and dreams. But Jesus is out there on the water. He is making a way, offering a path for us to walk. If we can fix our eyes on him, and keep them there, we can get through this, too. Just like all the times before, we can walk through whatever uncertainty surrounds us and follow him into what he has for us. And if we look away, if we start to sink, if we get overwhelmed, we can say “Lord, save me.” He will save us every time, and he will place us back above the waves.