When I was little, my parents took me to the park to learn how to ride a bike. They rode theirs so effortlessly and without training wheels! “Wow!” I thought to myself, “How could I do that?” They were having so much fun, and I wanted to join in. It was absolutely thrilling when I started to get the hang of how to ride my bike. That is, until the fear set in: “What if I fall? What if I can’t move in time and hit something? What if I break a bone?” The second that those fears popped into my head, I began to wobble and fall. I hit the ground with a thud and scraped my knee. I called for my parents, who helped clean me off and assured me that I was doing everything right, that I simply forgot to trust in myself.
For me, that experience resonates with so much of what I hear in the story of Peter walking out onto the water (Mat. 14:22-33). He sees Jesus doing something incredible and wants to emulate him. He walks out onto the sea, and after the fear sets in, he sinks and begins to drown. Jesus comes to save him and says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Certainly there are times in our lives where doubt is appropriate: pondering our legitimate shortcomings and failings when we know we could have done better, thinking about the meaning of suffering and pain in the human experience, considering whether or not we see God working in our lives. There are other times that such doubt is rooted in our own fears, scrupulosity, and workings of the evil spirit: We offer a presentation on a topic we work hard on and still question about whether or not it went well; a person gives us a compliment and we think they’re lying to us because we do not acknowledge our own giftedness; we see that we’re actually riding the bike without training wheels, but then realize that we are still only learning.
Peter’s story is inherently about trust. It challenges us to trust in our own gifts and talents which we work hard to cultivate, to trust that others aren’t lying to us when they recognize our abilities, and ultimately to trust that God will always be there for us when we feel like we are drowning. When I was learning how to ride my bike, I didn’t wait to start riding it until I understood everything that had to be known about weight distribution and velocity. No, I started riding it because I knew my parents believed that I could do it, and because they believed in me, I could start to believe in myself. Yeah, there were a couple of bumps and bruises along the way, but when I was finally able to trust, I could stop thinking about when I might fall next and start thinking about where I would go.
Learning to trust myself was a product of my belief in myself and the support of others. It was also the result of actually trusting that God is working in my life, even when that doesn’t seem apparent to me. While the story of Peter is often used to illustrate the importance of faith in Christ, I would want to take it one step further. It seems to be a story of how Peter’s inability to trust himself is the result of his not believing in God’s trust in him.
As one of the many people graduating this semester, I believe that the challenge of Peter’s story is to recognize the ways that God and others have placed enough trust in us to know that we will make it in the world. Stepping out onto the water like Peter can only happen when we trust that others trust in us, that when things get scary there is always a hand extended out to us with a voice gently and sweetly saying, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
After two fruitful years of writing Faith Features for The Torch, Christian Rodriguez will be graduating with a Masters of Divinity from the School of Theology and Ministry this month. The Torch staff thanks him for his insights the past two years and prays for the best in his future endeavours.