what is faith… when all is certain

26 Jun

[Matthew 14:22-31 / Hebrews 11:1-40]

I am in my boat

Riding out a storm

Crouching in its belly

Trying not to be knocked about

Clinging to the edges

With all my might

Looking over the side


To glimpse the black water

That churns under a dark sky

This boat, turning and pitching, is my security.  It is so predictable and logical and safe.  We ride boats on water and we know what to do when they fail us: we swim.  I know how to swim.  Here in the boat, I know the best and the worst.  I know of speed over smooth water and the desperate swim away from ruin.  I have knowledge and physical strength.  This is nothing new.  I know the answers.

I think this boat ride is enough for me.  I trust You here, in the belly of the boat, on the back of the waves.  The storm is enough excitement.  I ride it out to test my faith.  I am satisfied here until I see You.  As I’m peering over the side of the boat I catch a glimpse of Your figure.

You’re out among the waves

No boat

No swimming

Walking as calmly as you would through

A field of long grasses and flowers

Doing the impossible

Making it look simple

Standing steady and firm

In the midst of a torrent, a gale, and foaming waters

I curl up in the bottom of my boat shaking.  I think that riding this boat is a challenge, until I see You.  I am gripped by a strange and wild desire, a kind of desperation.  Here in the boat I’m not really living, not really seeing all that I could.  This boat confines me and blinds me.  Staying in the boat isn’t enough.  Doing the expected, the natural, the human is too small.

As for faith?  Does it mater if I trust You now, when I know what to do and know the way out?  Does it matter that I trust You here, in this hand-hewn pocket of human strength and surrogate security?  Is it faith when I am merely confident in my own knowledge?

In all of this there is no satisfaction.

It is not enough to ride the sea in my small fortress, to do the predictable, the logical, the safe.  It is not satisfying to know the answers, the course of action, the possible situations.

It is empty.

What is faith when all is certain?

I cry out for more.

And you say “Come.”

“Come out. Come out of your little boat and don’t try to swim when you hit the water.  Come out and walk with me.  Let’s do the impossible and treat this foaming dark sea like a marble floor.”

It would all be madness apart from Your call.  You have said the word and Your voice validates it all.  Your voice takes me out of the boat and puts me on path of faith.

A path that spans a perilous sea

On a dark night

In a furious storm

A path with singular vision

I only see Your gaze

A path of intense attention

I only hear Your voice

All distractions are muted

By the pull

Of Your call

As You say


Make me like You: more comfortable to live the impossible, the paradox, the inexplicable than to live the predictable, the logical, the safe.  May I be more comfortable walking on water than riding in my boat.

There is a halfway point between my place in the boat and Your embrace.  As I cross that stretch upon the waves, feeling the water splash my ankles and sometimes rise to my waist, I am sustained by firm footing.  But I am suspended between my security and Your promise.  I’ve left my shelter behind; I’ve taken You at your immaterial word, followed Your voice and Your loving gaze, and I am standing in deep waters.  I’m over my head amidst a storm that can destroy me.  Your promise is all that I have.

It is here that I waver and fear; as the water rises I pause.  Was it only the passion of a moment that caused me to make this leap?  As the wind blows I falter and look back.  I turn back.  I turn away.  Am I hearing things in this storm?  With the roar of the waves in my ears, was I only reading Your lips?  The water stung my eyes.  Did it blind me a little?  Could I really read them right?  This next wave is over my head.  It’s coming, building higher and higher.  Don’t You see it too?  Don’t You?

What have I done?

Lord, You told me to come to You on the water

But do You see that wave?

It will sweep us both away.

Won’t it?

I resort to my own strength.  I try to escape the way I have escaped danger before.  But I’ve never been here before.  Cool experience is replaced by heated, panicked motion: flailing arms, thrashing feet, powerlessness.

Do you see that wave? It will sweep us both away.

It’s true.  The water is over my head.  This wave is far too much for me. No use trying to fight the current.

Lord, why did you let me come out here?

I am sinking.

Water fills my mouth.

I’m drowning.

Where are you?

Lord, save me!

I falter. I doubt. I fall.

I fall upon Your arms.

Nothing is impossible with You.

“O you of little faith.

“Why fear the wind and the waves?  Marvel at this point of faith.  Delight in it.  This is the impossible path: being secure when you stand between one source of security and other.  Here, where you no know nothing but what I have told you, you find the true life of faith.

“Child, it is my glory to be the strength in your weakness, the order in your chaos, the logic in your absurdity, your foothold in these waves.  O You of little faith. Never doubt me.”

-hannah clarkin


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