Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Living Up to the Feast

Do you ever do that thing where you're talking, and you say something you didn't even know you knew, or you learn something as you're saying it?

Last night I was hanging out with CourtneyinAfrica (who is not presently in Africa, though she will be again soon and briefly), having Christmas leftovers and an improvised salad.

We were having deep and meaningful conversation, mostly around trusting God and its implications for real life, and I suddenly thought of the story of Peter asking Jesus to let him walk on water. CourtneyinAfrica and I had been divulging certain Impossible Dreams we have each been dreaming, and hashing through whether or not these were things we were supposed to hope for, and therefore trust God to perform (because we both know He can fulfill them, of course), or if we were "wanting the wrong things" for reasons known only to God, and therefore supposed to do something decisive to sever ourselves from the wantings.

When I thought of Peter, I thought, "What a crazy thing to ask for," and then I thought, "He didn't ask Jesus if it was His will--he just went for it." So I started to point this out, but what I actually ended up saying was, "Peter didn't say, "Lord, if it's Your will tell me to walk to You on the water. He said, 'Lord, if it's You . . . '"

I stopped.

CourtneyinAfrica stopped.

We both stared at each other. Probably we both got the chills. It felt like we had just uncovered something momentous, without actually being able fully to grasp or explain its significance. CourtneyinAfrica said, "It has something to do with relationship." I'm still not sure what I think this means, but it's as if, in the relationship Peter and Jesus had, Peter could ask something ridiculous, but it wasn't actually going to be wrong. And Jesus loved Peter so much, he didn't say, "See, Peter, you don't always get everything you want. This is your day to learn that. It will make you a stronger person." Nor did he stand there with his arms crossed, tapping His foot on the waves, waiting for Peter to say, "Oh--I mean, if it's Your will. If you want to. Yeah . . . that." Peter didn't doubt that Jesus could do it, and he doesn't seem to have doubted that Jesus would want to (at least, not initially). He had simply said, "Lord, if it's You," and it was Him, so He did it.

And then, even though it was an isolated event and only involved two people and a dozen or so eye-witnesses, He even used it to glorify Himself, because it ended up in the Bible. I hardly think it's a fluff human-interest piece. It's got to be there for some reason.

I have been praying for some version of my Impossible Dream for more years than I can count, probably, and for a more specific version of it for a little over a year. And I don't know what the outcome of all this praying is going to be. I don't ever expect anything I pray for to look the way I imagine it when I'm praying for it (because to date, nothing ever has). And I'm a pessimist; I tend to expect the worst, in hopes that I will be wrong but bracing myself in case. So although it's not hard for me to trust that God can do miracles, I have a bear of a time trusting that He wants to do them, for me--that I might actually want something He wants.

Now I'm wondering. Maybe most of this praying-year, I've largely been asking the wrong questions. So the waves loom and I start to lose my balance and I start to sink and I think, "See? I knew I didn't want the right thing." But every time--every time--I've finally stopped trying to stay afloat myself, and said the equivalent of "If it's You," the waves have subsided and I've seen Jesus' face (figuratively, but clearly, and that's still something . . . ) and I've been able to take another step. I still don't know what this means, exactly, but I guess I'm probably not supposed to. Yet, anyway.

After CourtneyinAfrica left, I (wasted a little time on Facebook and) got ready for bed. I sat down and opened up a new devotional book that some person had anonymously left me at Starbucks. I opened it to the reading I was up to. It was about Peter, asking Jesus to invite him to walk on the water.

Today it occurred to me that yesterday was the Feast of Epiphany . . .


Annelise said...

This was a very encouraging entry as I am either suffering culture shock or in a spiritual battle or both since I've been back in Ireland. Thanks for sharing this conversation!

Jenn said...

Jenn -- thanks for sharing this story. I got goosebumps reading it. I have had my own year of praying and wrestling through faith issues, and I resonate with your thoughts: Jesus was there, maybe obscured by the wind and waves sometimes, but there, nonetheless.

I don't comment enough on your blog, but I read it pretty faithfully and continue to enjoy and be edified by it. I'm so glad that you continue to invite the world into your life through your writing.

Jenn said...

Mom--you didn't say THAT when we talked . . . Probably the culture shock IS the spiritual battle? Sorry to hear about it.

Jenn--thanks for reading, and for the encouragement yourself. You really are you know.

Jeff said...

One of the things I increasingly become convinced of is that we have these thought that God has this one little narrow expectation for our lives. This turns our every little experience into an act of divination; our purpose becomes figuring out which movie we're supposed to star in.
The story you point out here suggests the opposite: Peter wasn't trying to uncover Jesus' will for his life. He simply recognized that through Jesus he could do amazing things.
What if the whole divine will is more like a parents will for their own children...
I'd be a control freak if I had every little detail all planned out for my kids.
At the same time, I could list an endless number of characteristics and values that their lives incorporate; and a corresponding list of characteristics that I hope aren't true of their lives.

K. said...

Hi Jenn,
I also read your blog quite faithfully (every time I remember I read all the way back to see what I missed:)) and enjoy it a lot. This entry gave me, too, goosebumps because it reflects so much of what I have fought with over the years. I always held fast to the verse "Let all who hope in You not be ashamed" (ps.25). In the NIV it even says:"No one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame".

Barry Pike said...

THIS, in my opinion and in my limited experience, is exactly how He works.

Jenn said...

Thanks for the encouragement and added insights, one and all!

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