As Harry preached this past Sunday on Jesus walking on the water, I was deeply moved as I realized that recently I had been weathering my own storm… it is hard to know where these storms originate and why. Sometimes they arrive as quickly and as unexpectedly as they subside… like a squall on a lake… unpredictable and unforseen but powerful enough to take you down.
The question is, what do we do in these unpredictable and uncontrollable times in our lives when we can quickly become overwhelmed? In Matthew 14, Jesus invites Peter to join him as he walks above the water in the storm… Peter joins him but as we know, he quickly begins to sink when he removes his gaze from Jesus and fixes himself on the trouble at hand.
This practice of gazing at Jesus, fixing our eyes on him, can be elusive at best. When we find ourselves caught unexpectedly in a squall, panic sets in and we can quickly become harried. Slowing down, listening and waiting seem nearly impossible, especially noticing where Jesus is in all of that. Everything in us wants to do the opposite.
And yet, we are invited to grab a hold of Jesus’ hand and hold on. This requires intentionality and practice. It is then these times, that our spiritual practices can anchor us… the rhythms that we establish can continue and help us to find our way.
One of the things I have been practicing before I fall asleep at night is simply telling God that I am looking forward to our time together the next day. In that simple gesture, I am honoring my intentions toward God and giving voice to my hopefulness in the gift of God’s presence for the next day. I am also saying in that one sentence, I love you God and I can’t wait to spend time with you again.
So when I found myself in a sort of spiritual squall this past week and was feeling dark and overwhelmed… just before my eyes closed, I managed to whisper those words to God…I am looking forward to our time together, God.
Sometimes it can be that simple… grabbing a hold of God’s hand. The rest is the Grace that meets us there, sheltering and sustaining us.
I am reminded of the great hymn, Rock of Ages, written by Reverend August Montague Toplady. The story goes that while he was headed to preach in a nearby village traveling along a gorge, he was unexpectedly caught in a violent storm. He was able to find a crack in the wall of the gorge to protect him as the storm passed and it inspired him to pen these powerful words:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.