But when [Peter] noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” – Matthew 14:30 (NRSV)
I’ve never tried to walk on water, but the summer I was four, I almost drowned trying to dog paddle. We were visiting a couple who lived by a lake in northern Arizona. Coming from Phoenix, anywhere with trees and water was paradise. After sitting with the adults on the front porch, my siblings and I finally convinced the husband to take us out in his old rowboat.
Dressed in regular clothes (no swimsuit), I discovered that a wooden boat on a sunny day was even hotter than a shaded porch. So I began to whine, “It’s hot, I’m hot, too hot.” My siblings first ignored me. My complaints grew louder until they’d had enough. “If you’re so hot,” one said, “why don’t you jump in the water and cool off?”
So I did. I was doing a fine dog paddle, until I heard my mother cry: “Talitha doesn’t know how to swim!” I remembered—I couldn’t swim. I quit paddling and began to sink—until the boat’s owner heeded the alarm and fished me out of the water.
Matthew says the wind frightened Peter. I wonder if the disciples’ or his own inner voice also reminded him he couldn’t walk on water. Whatever the source, it drowned out Jesus’ assuring words and he started to sink, until Jesus grabbed him, just as the old man grabbed me, and delivered him up onto the boat.
Sometimes the voice of alarm saves us, as my mother’s did. But sometimes, the voices around us can drown out the one voice we need most to hear. “Have no fear. Come. You can do it.”
Help us to hear your voice, O God. That’s all. Help us to hear your voice. Amen.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Parts 1 and 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.