Peter steps out

Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened….

Matthew 14: 28-30
It isn’t that I lack the courage 
In fact last time I checked
I am the only one who steps out
who puts myself on the line
who leaps out of the boat half-naked
or sticks close enough behind
to be accused of being his follower

And I’m the one who has the courage to blurt 
what everyone else is thinking 
but is afraid to say for fear 
of looking like a damn fool

I’m the one who draws the sword 
I’m the one who lops off the ear
I’m the one who tells him to his face 
“You can’t go to Jerusalem!  
They’ll kill you–”

and sure enough I’m the one who gets 
compared to Satan

No I don’t lack courage
impetuous courage
impulsive courage  yes
I confess
I’m ready for the fight 
ready for the showdown 
the throwdown
in the moment of decision
I’ve got plenty of courage

                                          but the follow-through 

I mean when they start pointing the finger
“Aren’t you one of his followers?”
“Didn’t I see you hanging out with him?”
“I’m sure I saw you with him–”
No, no that wasn’t me  You’ve got me confused 
with somebody else
I don’t even 
know the man–

And that’s what happened that night
I dared that ghost 
to order me out of the boat

Never did I ever think he’d actually call my bluff

And well it wasn’t a bluff was it  
I was fully prepared to get out of that boat,
and I did  And look at me  I’m walking on water

Wait a minute
Is this really happening
How can this be happening  
No one can do this this can’t really be happening–
can it?
And swept into that swirl of thoughts
I look down into the dark swirl of water  Big mistake
It’s like as long as I kept looking at 
that bright shadow in the distance
I was under some kind of spell and  
there I was walking pretty as you please
right across the face of the deep

But when I looked down
Just to confirm that I really was walking on waves 
I thought
Simon, you idiot  
You’ve done it again  
What the hell were you thinking
And that’s just it  like my mother always said
I wasn’t thinking
I don’t think
I never think
I just jump up and charge off
And suddenly I’m flapping in the wind
caught in the waves
away from the boat
away from the safety of the boat

I know boats
I trust boats
Been working with them all my life
I know boats like I know nets 
like I know where the fish are
I know the best spots to fish
You don’t last long as a fisherman if you don’t know that
And I depend on boats for my work  
So I know them  
My boats are sturdy seaworthy
And granted we don’t have to go far
but sometimes you get caught in weather like that night  
It’s just a little ways to land 
but when the wind is against you 
when you can’t make headway 
you might as well be sailing off 
the edge of the earth
                                    A man can drown in that lake  

I know the currents 
I know the shallow spots and the whirlpools
and I know how to steer between them  
But when the wind is against you and the waves are up-

Like 3 young men off the coast of Iona  
A 5-minute ferry ride
to the island of Mull  
You can stand on one side 
and wave to people waiting on the other
But make no mistake 
that thin stretch is treacherous, 
and one day 3 young men who’ve been 
sailing in that water all their lives
capsize and drown

Imagine the wail that went up that night, 
a wail solid as a wall
from those little houses, from that small 
tight-knit community

                              A man can drown in familiar waters
                                           doing familiar things
             forget just for a moment the challenges of the deep
               and step off the side of the boat on his own dare
                            into the dark arms of swirling water

When I looked down that’s all I saw  
waves that pull you under 
slap you around 
like a fish flapping on the shore

And in that moment I knew 
my impetuous courage 
my brute bravery
was no match for the world

As I slipped beneath the waves
that threatened to close over my head 
leaving no trace
I felt a warm hand slip into mine 
(this was no ghost)
and a current swept up under me
and through me
and I began to rise.  

He shook his head and said,
Why did you doubt?

(Why did you doubt?)

I have no answer, Rabbi
I don’t know why 
It isn’t I think I’ll start doubting now
It’s just that somehow
when the waves are up
and the wind is against me
I can’t keep from looking down
fascinated by the deep 
spellbound by fear
hooked by all that threatens

And hey        what about you
Why should I let you off the hook
What about your part in this
Why do you appear as some luminous shadow
Why can’t you be always solid 
like that warm hand
like the wood on the deck of my boat
like something I can understand
Why do I have to place my faith in something 
that hovers in mist just beyond my sight

No answer?

No answer.

We step back into the boat sail on
to the other side of the lake
to our next destination

Maybe there is no answer

To any of it

                                  Maybe only in the stepping out
                              in the courage to dare those waves
                  Maybe only in the willingness to risk drowning
                                      will I find that warm hand
                                         my way back to the boat
and back to land

Note: This piece was written as a monologue, delivered as a meditation on Matthew 14:22-33.

Published by kbryantshipp

Preacher woman, musician, lover of justice

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