This summer I was given the amazing opportunity to teach at the Future Teacher Training Camp in Owasso, OK. As I was beginning my homiletics (lesson preparation and delivery) class I made the statement to the girls that it’s ok to be afraid when you get up to speak in front of people, or when you do anything new, for that matter. As the week progressed I learned that my brief statement had been quite an epiphany for many of our girls, including my own daughter. This really got me to thinking about the expectations we often have of ourselves as Christians and how unrealistic they can be.
So often I fear that we expect ourselves to be perfect at everything, every time. Even when we are willing to try something new, if it doesn’t go perfectly we say, “Well, I tried, I failed, I guess that’s just not my talent.” Then we refuse to try anything like it again. I think maybe we see things this way because we get caught up looking at this world through our own eyes, instead of through God’s.Matthew 14:22-32 is a perfect account of how we should view our failures and the fear that accompanies them.
We all know the context of this passage. Jesus has been teaching to great multitudes, has just fed the 5,000 and is in need of some quiet time with his Heavenly Father. In verse 23 he goes up on a mountain to pray while the apostles sail on ahead across the sea. Verse 25 says, “And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.” Naturally, the sight of a man walking on the sea scares the apostles until they hear their Master’s voice telling them to not be afraid. This is when Peter speaks up in verse 28, “And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” We all know how this goes. Peter gets out of the boat and begins to walk on the water towards Jesus. But then what happens? He becomes afraid. He takes his eyes off of Christ and sees the wind and begins to sink before he can reach his goal. Jesus has to reach out to Peter and grab his hand to save his life.
This is a wonderful example of an epic failure on the part of Peter. He talks a big talk about walking to Jesus on the water, but when the time actually came, he failed. He didn’t reach his goal, and he lost faith in the process. But is that what we generally remember about this passage? No! What do we generally remember? Not necessarily that Peter didn’t succeed, but rather that he was the only one courageous enough to get out of the boat.
Since I have three daughters, I pretty much have every line of the “Princess Diaries” movies memorized. My favorite by far is this: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear” (Meg Cabot). As Christians we have been called to serve. Sometimes that service will come in forms that are natural and easy for us and sometimes that service will come in a brand-new form that absolutely terrifies us. Either way it is service that God has called us to do for Him, and his only expectation is that we are courageous enough to try.
Even though Peter began to sink before he reached Christ, I have no doubt that his fellow apostles were in awe as they watched him climb over the side of the boat and stand on the roiling water. Did Peter succeed here as we term success? No he didn’t, but he set an amazing example of true courage and faith that we are still being edified by today. Many times we fall into the trap of feeling that God only wants perfect servants, and that the only way we can be effective is if we do everything just right and, sisters, that is just not the case!
One of the things that has impacted me tremendously in my own Christian walk happened when I was just a young child attending Leadership Training for Christ. I attended the young men’s song-leading event and observed as a young man lead the song “Stepping in the Light.” The amazing thing was that this particular young man had a very serious handicap. His hands were drawn up to his chest, his speech was slurred, and he was in a wheelchair. There is no doubt that this young man will never know the joy of taking a physical step, but his face was absolutely radiant as he sang his heart out about the joy of walking in our Savior’s Steps. Was this young man the best song leader I have ever heard? Far from it, but he was the most impactful.
Sometimes, sisters, our impact is not a result of our talent, but of our faith and our courage. Our impact doesn’t come from our own abilities, but rather the fact that we were willing to get out of the boat. I can’t tell you the encouragement it gives me to see a woman who I know is terrified lead a prayer before ladies class. Often times she is very self-conscious of this fear, but it is ok to be terrified. It is ok to deliver a lesson, lead a prayer, or lead a song with your knees knocking together or stumbling over your words… as long as you get out of the boat.
Another time our fear can stop us from serving is in our ministry to the ill and aging. It is amazing the difference that just our physical presence can make in the life of a sister who is dealing with a long-term illness or is in the hospital or nursing home. However, this scares many women (I am one of them!). It’s an uncomfortable situation, it often smells funny, and there is a huge fear of not knowing what to say. That’s ok, as long as we are willing to get out of the boat. Just our presence is a reminder of God’s love for our sister.
Due to our unrealistic expectations of ourselves, many sisters fear opening up their home to their brethren or visitors. What if the food isn’t perfect? What if they are bored? What if they don’t think my house is clean enough? Well, I have been blessed to be in many of my brethren’s homes over the years. I can’t tell you how clean they were or what we had for dinner, but I can tell you the closeness, love and appreciation I felt that they would open their home to me and my family. Once again, it’s ok to be afraid, our impact comes when we are willing to get out of the boat.
Sisters, God doesn’t want, nor does he need, perfect servants. He doesn’t want servants who are never afraid or uncomfortable as they minister to others. God wants servants who are willing to get out of the boat. As Christians we should be like the man from Princess Diaries. Our courage as Christians is not found in a lack of fear, but rather the judgment that God Almighty and serving Him is greater than our fear. So let me ask you, are you willing to get out of the boat?
Originally posted on 12/19/12