“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'” (Matthew 14:30)
I was on the swim team in high school. I was pretty much an OK freestyler and a pretty good backstroker. I wasn’t the best on my team by any means but I learned something quickly about swimming, if you were just OK on your team, you were generally way better than all the people who weren’t swimmers. So, courtesy of a few races versus football players to find out who the ‘true athletes’ were, I had convinced myself I was really great.
There is something really deceiving about high school sports, it creates a sense of “Oh I can do that” which lasts long after your last game, meet, or event. You identify as a wrestler or football player or dancer or swimmer without having stepped foot in that arena for a decade. And because at one time you dedicated hundreds or thousands of hours to the practice of that sport, you become convinced you could pick it back up any time and still be great. I’m not knocking high school sports, they’re great for building character and work ethic but they can make us a little delusional about our abilities when we look back on the glorious past. I am a shining example of that.
The truth is, I can’t swim well any more. I could make excuses because of a shoulder injury or because of inner ear issues but the truth above truths is, I am no longer 18 and no longer practice 15 hours a week. However, I cannot tell you that if you challenged me to a race I wouldn’t accept, because “Oh I can do that.” And my pride would get the better of me and my chiropractor would get the fun task of setting me straight.
On Sunday, Keith Ferrin talked about the story of Peter walking on water toward Jesus. That story is remarkable in so many ways but I was struck by one thing that I hadn’t really realized before. At the moment Peter started sinking, he asked Jesus to save him. It seems obvious, right? I mean Jesus was firmly standing on the waves so it would make sense to cry out for his help.
But I have a feeling that even if I had been as brave as Peter and had the faith to step out of the boat, when the waves got the better of me I would have kept the narrative going of “Oh I can do this.” I realized so often in my life I let my pride get the better of me and instead of calling out to my Heavenly Father for help, I tell myself I’ve got this. I mean I can swim, right?! I was so good for so long and I will stare into the face of my Savior, who is holding out his hand to rescue me from drowning and I will say to Him, “No it’s OK, I can do it myself.” And as I become exhausted from keeping my head above water long enough to breathe, I complain about how hard it is and how no one will ever help me.
My own arrogance is the weight that keeps me down and when I realize it, it’s the shame and fear of hearing “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” that keeps me from asking for help.
But maybe I need the words. Maybe they feel harsh but the truth sometimes is less than easy. And most definitely, the words are less harsh than water filling my lungs.
This week, if you feel like you are sinking, may you have the courage to lay aside your pride and ask for help because grace is the only thing that will lead us safe to shore.
Ali can be reached via email here.