Matthew 14: 28-33. Peter called to him: “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you over the water.” “Come,” said Jesus. Peter got down out of the boat, and walked over the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strength of the gale he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, “Save me, Lord!” Jesus at once reached out and caught hold of him. “Why did you hesitate?” he said. “How little faith you have!” Then they climbed into the boat; and the wind dropped. And the men in the boat fell at his feet, exclaiming, “You must be the Son of God.”
When I was a little girl, I used to try to fly. I would stand on the top step of my porch and know, really know, that if I just had enough faith, I could fly. Then, I’d close my eyes and jump!!
I never did fly. I was pretty sure this was because I just didn’t have enough faith. I didn’t believe hard enough. I didn’t trust enough that I could defy gravity and the laws of nature. I kept trying. But I never had enough faith to stand at the top of a building and step off to fly. So, evidently, I didn’t have enough faith to take that bigger risk. I would keep trying from my porch where if I didn’t fly, at least I wouldn’t get hurt.
I would try walking on water sometimes, but that’s harder because you aren’t allowed to swim alone. Somebody watching you, and judging you, and questioning you, when you’re trying to walk on water does terrible things for your faith.
Sometimes, I still look at water and think: there’s no reason why that water can’t hold me up. If I just step the right way and have faith.
I don’t try because I don’t want to get wet.
I guess it’s supposed to be a metaphor. We’re constantly questioning. We’re constantly sinking and rising and sinking and rising…and sinking. Sometimes we float. Sometimes we tread water. Sometimes we swim.
Our lives are going to be defined for the rest of our lives into two phases: before Covid and after Covid. It’s likely we’re going to look at the before and remember how good we had it. We were walking on water. Life was good. Life was normal. Life was fair.
I don’t know where Covid is going to take us. We don’t know where life is ever going to take us. We’ll return to some sort of normal again. We’re looking forward to that new normal again. When life is good again. When life is fair.
Fair. Normal. These are interesting terms.
Normal. It’s a natural, tribal thing to strive to fit in. To live normal lives. Lives that don’t stand out. Lives that aren’t too spectacular or noticeable in either direction. If we do something special, it’s usually in a normal way. Or balanced by normal things. If our kids stand out for any reason, we tell them it’s normal; we create a new normal and ideally our circle accepts this new normal. Not normal is threatening. We may tell our kids to be special and to stand out, but mostly in a normal way. And our example tends to be…normal. Normal is safe.
Fair. We, as adults, know that that life isn’t fair, but we use fair a lot when we talk about our kids. Like things should be different for them. It’s not fair that our kids have to deal with what’s happening now. It’s not fair that they missed out on normal things. It’s not fair that they are going to miss out on normal things. It’s not fair that they feel unsafe.
It’s not fair that we feel unsafe. We want to go back to normal because it felt safe and comfortable. Of course we don’t want our kids, or ourselves, to be overly (or unfairly) challenged.
But…I’m going to ask it.
Was the “old normal” really working? Sure, it was comfortable, but was it really working? I feel like we (our kids included) are overworked, over stressed, and over competing for…everything. I would have thought we’d have outgrown this, but our kids (and us) are ostracized, lost, bullied, and bullying. The number of kids who are anxious, depressed, and suicidal is outrageous. The number of us who are anxious, depressed, and suicidal is outrageous.
Our immune systems are a mess. We don’t have time for self care and self reflection. Quiet time was forgotten in a time when we needed it the most. We are sick. Sick in body. Sick in mind. Sick in heart.
In a lot of ways we’re clinging to that normal, because it was comfortable. We were sinking, but didn’t know it. We had learned how to tread water so we didn’t realize that we were sinking.
Now, we don’t know how to tread water and it feels like we’re sinking and everything seems lost. One of the common metaphors for Covid time is that we’re all in a storm together, but we’re each in our own boats with our own problems. We’re still separating ourselves from one another. Everybody is still clinging to their own ship with their heads bowed. No one really wants anybody to look to closely at their own ship either sinking or doing just fine. Nobody wants to look to closely at anyone else’s boat to see that they’re sinking or doing just fine.
Our circles, our tribes, are getting smaller and smaller. We’re still not looking out for one another.
Is that a normal we want to cling to? One where we’re just treading water?
Sick in heart. Sick in body. Sick in mind. And pretending it’s all ok. Pretending everyone else is all ok.
Fair. Normal. When has anything, truly, been fair? Or normal? And what are we comparing to? Fair and normal are a comparison. Abnormal and unfair are parts of life. To not want ourselves, or our kids, to experiences unfairness is…unfair. To not want our kids to step out of normal, the comfort zone, is limiting. It’s how we grow and learn.
Maybe we need to reframe the experience. Instead of thinking of things as unfair (again, unfair compared to what?), what if we think of them as challenges to help us grow.? An adventure? We’ve been given an adventure (that’s probably much more reassuring to our kids and the scared little kid inside all of us). Instead of normal, how about we frame things as different or how about seeking better?
We have an opportunity to choose not just to follow the path that’s laid out before us.
It’s hard. But life before was hard too. It just seemed easier because this is new and uncharted and it’s because of that that it seems more challenging.
All is not lost. All is not hopeless.
The kids aren’t losing out, we aren’t losing out, we’ve been forced to go in a different direction than we thought it would (favorite quote: life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans). We are forced to look at things differently and anew. In some ways, I think some of the scary is that we’ve been forced to look at what was and wasn’t working. We’re forced to look at things that “have always been this way” and figure out how to do it differently. This forces us to admit that maybe things weren’t so normal or fair or perfect. That is a gift. A scary gift.
Let’s come back to flying. When I leap off that top step and fall, what did I cry out?
When you leap off that top step and cry out, what do you cry out?
When we begin to sink what do we cry out? When all seems lost, what do we cry out?
Is it “Save me, Lord!”?
Was it words of faith?
Or did you cry out something else? Do we choose to complain that it’s not fair. If Jesus can walk on water, so should Peter, and so should I. Does Jesus question God in the storm? Nope. He walks forward on water. Does Peter question God in the storm? Yup. He sinks, but cries out for help. “Save me, Lord!”
Perhaps we need to call on faith and God and one another.
Maybe we’re in that zone that Peter was in. The sinking zone. Not quite fine. But it’s also not terrible. There’s a lot of power in the sinking zone. We can save ourselves and one another and call on God. Or we can sink some more and flounder and drown.
We can choose and cultivate a new normal. We can rise to the challenge of making things better than before. We can move forward with Grace. Comforting one another. Not fighting one another.
Challenges are inevitable. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is not. That is a choice.
Are we sinking?
No. We’re rising. We fear to sink. We fear a resurgence of covid cases. We fear life being different than it was before. We fear trying something in a new way. We fear failure. We’re fearful of a lot of things that have not yet happened. (Another quotes: worry is misuse of the imagination).
Yes, it could get worse.
It also could get better. Regardless of what happens.
Why are we assuming we’ll sink? Why are we assuming it’s not fair? Why are we assuming it’s not normal? Why are assuming we can’t turn this into something better? Why are we assuming all is lost?
Whatever comes now, we’ve been reminded of the importance of looking out for one another. We’ve been reminded that we don’t have a lonely ship in the middle of a gale, but we’re surrounded by other ships who need our help or who can help us. Even those who aren’t normal. Even when we’re not normal. Even, and especially, because it’s not fair!
We are not alone.
Are we calling on God or are we calling up and feeding our own demons?
Take a moment. Now. To count your blessings. What’s going well? (homework lovers: Take out a piece of paper and write them down. Every night. For the rest of your life or, at least, during times of trial and stress).
Who’s supporting you? Who are you supporting? What is good in your life? How is God blessing you?
Perhaps you feel a lifting? Perhaps, just maybe, you could fly?
May the Lord be with me this week, helping me to rise above the challenges set along my path. May I remember to sit with God when it feels like all is lost. May I remember to call on God when it feels like I am sinking. May I allow God and others to support me. May I be loved and love. May I remember to look on my life as a gift of choices to create a new normal in every moment. May I see God’s face in everyone.
Lord, grant me courage to be a strong force of hope and love in my community and with my circles of family, friends, coworkers, and everyone I meet. Amen.