The singing during last Sunday’s worship service made me nauseous. Literally.
A respiratory virus had triggered a mild recurrence of an inner ear problem. As the worship leaders began to play and sing, the lyrics were projected on a screen at the front of the sanctuary. Below the words was a video loop of waves, rising and falling, rising and falling. I tried to keep the nausea at bay by looking at the words and ignoring the rolling swell. The song began:
I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
I tried to concentrate on the words, but I still noticed the motion in the periphery of my vision. I sat down, unwrapped a nausea-calming Life Saver mint, gaze averted to the floor, but the queasiness continued. I remembered the advice from months ago: Look up. I needed to focus on something stable, unmoving. I stood and fixed my eyes on the wooden cross and let the music wash over me.
* * * * *
The boat was far from the shore. The wind was against the disciples, and choppy waves buffeted the boat as they sailed across Galilee. Just before dawn Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea. The disciples were understandably terrified.
Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!” Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?” The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down.
Matthew 14:30-33 MSG
We often emphasize the fact that Peter’s faith drained away when he looked down, but I like to remember the impossible thing he did, even if just for a moment. Peter walked on water.
Then he lost his focus. His eyes dropped from Jesus to the terrifying waves underfoot. Like Peter, when we gaze intently on the true and beautiful thing that is right in front of us and focus on it, the rest of the world becomes blurred and hazy–even if it’s just for a moment.
* * * * *
This week I read another set of lyrical words on another screen. I learned about crying, bleeding, stolen, marketed girls, nine-years-young girls, windward of the ISIS storm. Ann Voskamp’s post of the horrors in Iraq left me reeling.
I also read a gut-wrenching news story about the flood of sex trafficking in my own state. The statistics are sickening. The reporter reminded viewers that the average age of entry into prostitution is twelve.
Letters swim, eyes cloud, and stomach churns. Mints can’t cure this kind of nausea.
Are we drowning in a flood of evil, feeling that we can do nothing against the black, oily tide of malevolence?
How can we make a difference?
How can we do an impossible thing? How can we walk on water?
Ann Voskamp challenged her readers to make contributions to Preemptive Love Coalition. Nearly a half million dollars has been given so far.
Wings of Refuge in Iowa focuses on the restoration of survivors of domestic sex trafficking. (There are probably similar ministries in your area.)
We can do impossible things.
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
“Come” Jesus invites.
I will focus on Him,
step out of the safe boat,
and walk on water.
Photo of painting “Le Christ marchant sur la mer” by Amédée Varin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo of boat on water by Patricia Hunter pollywogcreek.blogspot.com/
I have seen many crosses this week–on church lawns, in sanctuaries, inside display cases, even on the corner of a car dealer’s lot. I join other Christians in commemorating Good Friday and remembering Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion, but I don’t want to get stuck there.
I don’t want to become near-sighted, focusing only on the pain of the cross and forgetting the joy and glory of the Resurrection. This story has a glory-filled conclusion.
I have been challenged by a recent Christianity Today article.
Don’t focus on the suffering of Jesus to the extent that you neglect the glory of the Cross in and through the Resurrection.
The authors (Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor) remind us of Jesus’ journey from God and His return to the heavenly Abba.
Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
John 13:1,3 NIV
Jesus’ return to the heavenly Father was a return to glory!
And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. John 17:5 NIV
I can’t comprehend that. The closest parallel I can imagine is leaving my home and family on a trip and coming back years later, but that’s a dim candle compared to the bright splendor of heaven.
This familiar verse in Hebrews
For the joy set before him he endured the cross Hebrews 12:2 NIV
reminds me of something I can understand: the process of giving birth.
“Remember to breathe.”
“Congratulations! It’s a boy–9 pounds and 13 ounces!”
Why do we endure the pain of childbirth? For the delight we feel cradling our newborn,
for the joy set before us.
My prayer for us all this Easter season:
may we remember Jesus death and suffering for our sins
AND the glory and joy of Jesus’ resurrection.
I’m ready to celebrate!
He is risen.
He is risen indeed.
* * * * *
Thanks to Barb Briggs and Rachel Joy Nieuwsma for allowing me to use their photos.
linking with Jennifer Lee Dukes
linking with Emily Wierenga
linking with Laura Boggess