Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When We Dare to Get Out of the Boat

I'm not sure I know where to start.

I'll start with Peter.
Peter who confessed Jesus as Lord.
Peter who always had questions.
Peter who said "no" to his Lord. Three times.

Yeah. That Peter.

Because there's a little bit of Peter in all of us, I think.

Jesus comes to the disciples in a great storm. He walks on water and scares them shocked silly.
But that Peter says, "Lord, if it's You, tell me to come to you on the water."
"Come," He says (Matthew 14:28-29).

(I love this part)

Then Peter got out of the boat.

Now I know in the next sentence Peter falls to fear and sinks a bit. He takes his eyes off the One who holds his heart and loses faith.

Peter gets a bad rap sometimes because he's a little edgy, a little blunt. A little too real for those of us who want a better ending. He reminds us too clearly of our own humanity--our own weaknesses-- when we come face to face with Jesus.

But Peter was the one who dared to get out of the boat. The only one.

Peter was the one who believed and took the first step.

Peter was the one who, despite the storm and the fear, Got. Out. Of. The. Boat.

I wonder how often the Lord waits for me to ask Him the question: "Will you catch me when I get out? Will you be right here?" Because He's just waiting to show me what He could do if I just got out of the boat.

I wonder if I make His heart sad when He has somewhere beautiful He wants to take me and I cling so desperately to my small, little boat, to my familiar, that I can't open my hand to latch on to something more. Something His.

There can be no hanging on to old boats when Jesus asks us to get out. There can be no looking back. There can be no vacillating. There can only be faith. And faith requires that we believe in what we can't see. It sounds so simple. And simple is sometimes so hard.

We will never know what could happen, what miracles God could do, what storms He would still, what gifts He has to give if we never take that first step in reckless, abandoned trust.

And it's that first step that's always the hardest, isn't it? And the scariest. Because I don't know what will happen when I take that first step. And if I just took that step, my eyes would be opened to the glory and greatness of Jesus. And so often I don't because I'm afraid. Paralyzingly so.

And yes, I'll be honest. Sometimes my fear feels bigger than my faith in Jesus. And I know if I just stepped out, it would be okay. I would be okay. But I don't. I make excuses. I rationalize. I justify. I play the what if game because I seem to excel at that particular game. I stay in the boat because it's comfortable. And comfortable is easy. And comfortable isn't scary. And comfortable will always be, well, less than what God has intended.

All three of my girls walked early and often. But I remember those sketchy beginnings. The weebling and wobbling, the top heavy waddling. I remember that first brave step where she had to let go of one thing and had to believe that I would be right there.

No mama is gonna let her baby take that first step and fall. But she's gonna wait hard until her baby takes one faith-filled step and then she'll swoop baby up in proud mama kisses. So our Father does with us.

But He can't swoop us up in proud papa kisses if we haven't gone anywhere.

When did we start believing that our Father would be any different with us? When did we learn doubt as a way of living because that's not living at all.

I often find myself having a Peter-heart and not the Peter-walk. I want to get out of the boat, but like Peter's friends, I'm cringing against the crashing waves and the voices of reason and rationality. Mostly, though, I'm afraid.

What God asks of us is often not reasonable or rational because it has to be bigger than us. What God asks is God-sized so that what I can't do, God can.  Why would God ask me to do the ordinary? God wants a Peter-heart who's willing to be a vessel for the extraordinary. He wants reckless abandon and dangerous faith.

And to Peter's credit, he didn't ask the ordinary of God. Peter asked to walk on water.

Talk is cheap though, isn't it? It's easy and doesn't require anything of me. Faith, much like love, is a verb and requires movement. When push comes to shove and the rubber meets the road, putting my faith in action is scary when there's a mortgage and kids and bills. Faith living is courage living. It's never a small thing to step off a ledge into the unknown grandeur of God's plan. It takes a relentless faith to do it and not just talk about it.

When we live obediently, when we surrender our illusion of security and instead reach for God's greatness, He never fails us. He's never gonna let us sink. He takes us to the edge of us and then takes over.

Even when Peter started to doubt, Jesus "reached out His hand and caught [Peter]" (v. 31).

The first step is always the hardest. There's so much uncertain ground in the terribly short distance between our comfortable and the Hand of God.

God desires for His children to believe in the extraordinary, unconditional love a Father has for us. Because when we know way down deep in all those shadowy hidey-holes where doubt sometimes dwells how extravagantly we are loved, then maybe we will start to live like we are loved that much. When we get how unfathomable God's love is for us, and we start walking that out, living that out, believing that, perhaps the Peter-walk of faith will be less scary.

Let's be brave together and get out of the boat. Let's fix our eyes on Jesus and believe that the Lord of Lords will settle the waves, calm the storm, and hold our hands. Let's believe that He loves us to the deepest depths and to the grandest heights. Let's walk the road of relentless, courageous faith-living together. And maybe when I get afraid, because I'm sure to get afraid, you might gently remind me that He's got me and I don't need to run back to my old boat. I only need to keep my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my courageous faith, and take the next faith-filled step. And we can keep taking those small faith-filled steps together.

And of course, God will swoop us up in proud papa kisses.

What dad wouldn't?

Grace Always Rises,

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

When my kids live out my words...

Today I heard them. Early. Too early.

So I stumble down the stairs, push my glasses up my nose so it's stumbling I do instead of tripping, and shove my wild mane out of my face as I navigate stairs, corners, hallway. Hopefully in that order.

Into their room I go.

"Girls," I whisper, "It's too early to get up. You need to close your eyes and go back to sleep for a little while."

This is not met with agreement from Rye. She is not happy. As in not at all. I sigh. And in my head, I think to myself, Really? It's 6 am. Go. Back. To. Sleep. And it isn't said in my head in a nice way either.

K moans and says, "Mama, my eyes are still tired."
I love her.
I say, "Well, sweet girl, go back to sleep."
Rye is still not happy with my decree. So I give her a kiss. And she pouts.
I love her, too.

And then K sort of sits up and gestures, quite grandly for being half asleep, toward the window with her palm face up and her fingers squeezed tightly together and says oh so matter of factly, "Wyleigh, just because the sky is awake doesn't mean we get to be awake."

How can one argue with that logic?
I, in fact, completely concur.
That's the best news I've heard in the 15 minutes I've been out of bed.

And Rye looks at her, nods her head, raises her arms up for a hug and squishes her lips together for a kiss and closes her eyes.

I close the door behind me, stumble back up the stairs to get ready for work and think how grand it is that sometimes your kids do the mama-job for you.  These are the best mama moments when the little people listen to each other, teach each other, exhibit that 'Golden Rule' we mamas like to instill in our little people. And when the words I have said for eons have sunk down into somewhere deep and true, and I hear them repeated, I admit, my heart does a happy dance.

(Unless of course those words are the not-so-nice-words with that not-so-nice attitude that I hate to admit they heard from me, learned from me, because those moments where those words are flung furiously at me are not proud mama moments and they do not make my heart skip a beat in glee. And my heart sighs sad for all the words that sometimes spill forth from the brokenness of my own life onto the sweetness of theirs.)

But on those momentous and triumphant occasions when my children live out, act out, speak out the good that they've seen or heard from my own heart, I admit there is a moment of pride that swells up from some deep heart nook or cranny when my children help each other do the thing they are supposed to do, without me. 

You know, like I have arrived at this unknown mommy-marker of accomplishment-dom. 
Because isn't that our goal as mamas? To teach our little people in such a way that the truth sinks into a true and honest place so that they can live that out one day without us? Isn't that the measure of all teachers--when our students can complete the task without our input, without our guidance? And we can clap and cheer because what better reason for celebration could there ever be than watching your child, into whom you have spent years planting the seeds of love and honesty and forgiveness and faith, live. that. out. 

These rare and precious moments puff my mama heart up a little and I marvel, briefly, at the lessons I've learned, and the layers I've grown, in my own life, in my own heart. Because the fruit of all those lessons and that learning are embodied, magnified, reflected in three little souls entrusted to me. 

Sure, this particular moment didn't change the course of history, or even alter the course of our family. In fact, this particular moment could have easily been lost in a multitude of other seemingly insignificant moments, but there was something special and eternal about this transaction between two sisters.

And this transaction, albeit small, reminded me that it's the small stuff, the small victories, that lead to the mightier celebrations and the deeper lessons. Rome wasn't built in a day, and the ocean is full of millions of tiny drops and this is one of those tiny drops. This drop matters. This drop is important. Because without it, the ocean would be less. I have hope. 

Still, in those darker moments where I've floundered and failed again, I need to remind myself that the dark moments are not the sum of all the mama love I've poured endless over my little hearts. That those dark, fragile, sometimes ugly moments lead me back, over and over again, to the feet of Jesus. Because He redeems those moments and makes beauty from those ashes which become the swelling crescendos in a symphony that ebbs and flows, just like any ocean, just like any life, just like any heart. And to Him it's all beauty.

And His mercies are new every morning.

Even if it starts at six a.m.

Grace Always Rises,