Monday, August 3, 2009

Walking The Sea

From my childhood, I have loved music. And I come by it honestly. What I mean by this is that both sides of my ancestral family were blessed with voices, ears, and abilities when it came to expressing themselves with music and song. A box of memories was found which are filled with photos of my father’s unnamed relatives; barefoot and suspendered in the woods of Oklahoma, holding their favored instruments. My mother’s family gatherings more than often ended with all of us assembled around a piano singing Irish ditties and old tunes. Guitars were brought out at BBQ’s and music would swirl around a campfire. But, one of my fondest memories of music was the old hymns that were sung in the little church in which I was raised.

By Biblical standards, the church was extremely legalistic and misguided in its tenets and doctrine. Grace was never mentioned, the cross was never taught, and the efficacy of Christ’s blood was ignored. They believed works and striving to attain salvation by their own merit was the key to the gateway to eternal life, and most still do today. Wrong as they may have been, this small group of people could sing, and each Sunday the rafters in the rickety old building would ring with their voices.

It was the practice of the church that no musical instruments accompanied their singing. As the Spirit led them, someone would either call out a particular hymn, asking for another to start it, or begin to sing it himself. Sitting next to my father on the hard wooden pew, I would often plead with him to start the hymn “Walking The Sea”. I loved to hear his deep and resonating bass voice sing the lines that echoed the melody. It wasn’t often we heard him sing. It would be over sixty years before the Gospel knocked the last chink from his stubborn heart and he would lift his voice in joy. But what is now obvious is that he must have also loved this hymn, for he sang it like no other.

At that time in my life, the song meant only that I got to hear my father sing it. The words simply recalled the story I had read in my childrens illustrated Bible storybook and the image of the man Jesus walking on the water. There was no deeply profound awe or amazement, no reverence and worship of a God capable of doing so. I was just a child who desired to hear a favored song from the lips of her father. And, it would also be a long time before I, too, understood the meaning behind the words.

Oswald Chambers was the encourager behind writing this story. In my tattered and worn daily devotional, “My Utmost For His Highest”, that I faithfully go to each morning, was a lesson based on Christ walking the Sea of Galilee. And as is usually the case, my imagination started running and my passion to write it down took over.

If you can, envision the disciples who struggled to row their boat against the buffeting wind on the high Sea of Galilee. Jesus had stayed behind to pray, telling the men He would catch up to them later. Because they obviously left without Him, they must have expected Him to catch another boat. Each stroke of the oars gained them only inches as they strained to reach the other shore. As Matthew and Mark recount this event, it is obvious they had traversed a great distance and that the wind was fierce and the waves were high. And on the shore they had left, Jesus stood on the bank gazing at the scene that lay before Him. To Jesus, there was no panic wondering how He would get to the boat and the men. He simply decided to walk out to them. Walk out to them? What human was capable of doing such a thing! The Man Who had just fed 5000 men, “besides women and children,” bringing the number closer to 15,000, with five loaves of bread and two fish. THAT was the Man Who simply stepped from solid ground and casually strolled across half the Sea of Galilee!

Now Mark tells us something interesting. As Jesus was walking towards them, “He was about to pass them by.” How long Jesus had spent on the mountain praying isn’t mentioned. The time it took the disciples to row to the middle of the Sea under the circumstances must have been lengthy. But the speed with which Jesus overtook them was astounding. My imagination tells me that the rolling, crashing waves were subdued ahead of His footsteps. There was no struggle up and over the waves for Jesus. Rather, the water recognized His feet and submitted in adoration that such a God would honor it with His presence. As He walked atop the waves, the fish of the sea danced below the waters and kissed the souls of His feet, worshiping their Creator. But in the account, it appears that the Lord was just going to keep on going rather than get in the boat, for His pace defied the disciple’s strength and endurance. It was as if He was saying, “I’ll see you guys on the other side!” and would have kept on going if the situation hadn’t called for a brief lesson in faith.

As Jesus approached the men, their reaction was typical, even to this day. They thought they saw a ghost, an apparition. After all, seeing someone walking on water wasn’t a very common sight. Their superstitious fear crept in, overwhelming them. I can see a smile beginning on Jesus’ lips, amusement bringing a twinkle to His eye. There was no end to the amazement these men felt each time Jesus revealed Himself. This Man Who continued to awe them was walking on water and doing it faster than they could row. It was as if He were saying to them, “Do you want to race? I bet I can beat you!” And to make matters worse, Peter appears to challenge Him!

“Hey, if it’s really You, ‘tell me to come to You,’” he said.

Jesus meets the challenge with his reply, “Okay you’re on. ‘Come.’

With reckless abandon, Peter does the impossible, steps out of the boat, and stands on the water. He takes a few tentative steps, focusing his full attention on his Lord Who stands waiting. What must have crossed Peter’s mind as he met Jesus’ challenge and found himself able to do the impossible?

“Wow! I’m actually walking on water! No man has ever done this!”

That was Peter’s mistake. In the elemental and scientific realm of Creation, it was impossible to accomplish what he was doing. No man had ever done this, so how could he? Peter takes his eyes off Jesus. He sees the wind causing the waves to crash around him. Doubt and “little faith” overtake him and Peter begins to sink. But a hand reaches out to pull him up and as long as Peter holds onto that hand, his feet are firmly planted and he’s able to climb back to where he perceives safety to be.

Peter made the same mistake that I often make; “…he began to reckon with the actual things, and down he went instantly.” (Chambers, June 18) At first, realizing Jesus was no ghost, his reckless abandon made him jump over the side of the boat. Then “self-consideration” entered his mind. Peter knew his limitations. He knew he couldn’t walk on water by his own power. His mind swirled with the realization of what he was doing, his eyes turned from his Lord to more material matters, and down he went.

Oswald Chambers states:

“God is not working toward a particular finish; His end is the process - that I see Him walking on the waves, no shore in sight, no success, no goal, just the absolute certainty that it is all right because I see Him walking on the sea.” (Chambers, July 28)

All too often in my own life, I think my eyes are firmly fixed on Jesus. I rise to the mountaintop with Him where all is transformed. Peace and joy fill my life; knowledge and trust in my salvation keep me lifted up. But then, I take my eyes off of Him for just one second and down I go. My feet, which I thought were firmly planted with Him, find themselves sinking into doubt, worry over finances, dread over current events, concern over health matters; and the list goes on and on and continues to grow unless I take the hand He offers to pull me back up.

“God’s end is to enable me to see that He can walk on the chaos of my life just now.” (Chambers, July 28) There is nothing too difficult for Christ, as the old hymn implies. He walked the sea! He walked on water! He can certainly help me overcome life’s difficulties if I just keep my eyes focused on Him and ignore the rogue waves of the world that come crashing down from time to time and threaten to drown me. I strive to keep “God’s end” in sight, not my own. I desire to always keep my eyes fixed on my God Who walked on water and Who is able to help me overcome all things. By doing so, I am assured that as I row through the sea of life, even if buffeted by the winds of trial and trouble, I will safely reach the other shore. And if I do begin to sink into doubt, there is always His hand reaching out to put me back onto my feet and help me back into the boat. That is a guarantee.

I now understand my love for the old hymns that are not often sung in churches today. The message this one contained was planted deep in my heart for another day, far in the future, when I would recall its mystery and revel in its wonder. God revealed to a child, in the simplest of ways, His mighty power and love so that one day I could join my voice with my father’s and sing of our God Who walked on the sea.

Walking The Sea

(Public Domain)

Out upon Galilee one night,
Angry waves dashed in maddening height;
As the disciples sailed in fright,
Over the deep.

Rowing against contrary wind,
Knowing not what might be the end;
Jesus came, He their dearest friend,
Walking the sea.

Walking the sea,
Walking the sea;
Jesus at night came unto to them,
Walking the sea. (Repeat)

Trouble sometimes may round you roll,
While on your voyage to the goal;
Just as they did in days of old,
On Galilee.

Faithfully strive your bark to guide,
Knowing through storm you’ll safely ride;
Jesus is ever at your side,
Walking the sea.


Copyright 2007 Karen L. Brahs


Mama Mimi (Dana) said...

Thanks for this Karen. It is a good reminder that we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. It's the only thing that gets us through.

Paul Guay said...

And one day we will hear Roy sing that song again and it will probably be SOON!!