That Sinking Feeling
Suppose Peter was not called out of the boat only to walk on water. Suppose he was called out of the boat to sink, to know his vulnerability?
Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when Peter noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” – Matthew 14:28-30 (NRSV)
Suppose Peter was not called out of the boat only to walk on water. Suppose he was called out of the boat to sink, to know his vulnerability and remember the kin-dom is not a solo effort?
Barbara Brown Taylor writes of this moment: “What if Peter had not sunk? What if he jumped out of the boat with perfect confidence, landed with both feet flat on the water and smiled across the waves at Jesus? What if the other disciples had followed suit, piling out of the boat after him? It would be a different story. It might even be a better story, but it would not be a story about us” (The Seeds of Heaven).
We could call Peter’s water walk a failure. Or, we could call it a spectacular success in acknowledging he is sinking and remembering he is not alone.
Too often, we get that “sinking feeling,” scramble back into the boat and give up. That’s common in the journey toward anti-racism, being LGBTQIA advocates and allies, ending voter suppression, and other justice work. When we recognize how complex and intersectional and overwhelming it all is, how many things we have to untangle in ourselves and in the world, we might find ourselves backing off.
Getting out of our safe spaces demands sinking into our vulnerability, our limitations, our ignorance. It’s hard and also a blessing. We can’t know what it means to be lifted up until we know what it means to sink. The good news is Jesus has overcome the intersectional high seas and hurricanes of this world (walks all over them!) and did not allow Peter to drown.
Holy One, I know you want more for me than safety and stability. When I sink, help me to give thanks and remember I am not alone.