While home on my break from the Middle East, I took a short trip to Pine Mountain to visit my friends at IMPACT 360. I love returning there. I go whenever I get the chance. This time, God spoke to me, as He usually does. Here are some reflections from my time there.
I have always loved the story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water. When I was a boy, my church used to perform a group of public acts on several occasions each year. One of them was a reenactment of Matthew chapter 14 where Jesus and Peter walk on water. The reenactment was pretty cheesy. A bunch of old guys who put on fake beards and a make shift pond with a piece of plywood board just below the surface made for cheap theatrics. Even still, this is about the best we can do when trying to imagine the real event. Who else has ever actually walked on water? I love this story for many reasons. One is that this story is very easy to translate to real life. I.e., it’s very easy to identify with Peter in this story and apply it to personal experiences. I’ve never heard a preacher read this story without saying something along the lines of, “if you want to walk on water, then you have to get out of the boat.” Many of us have heard this time and again. This is a very simple way of interpreting this story, but I don’t think that makes it any less significant. Just because we’ve heard the same sermon over and over again for many years doesn’t make it any less true or any less relevant.
The easy part of this story is finding the meaning. If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat. Quite simple. The difficulty comes when applying this to personal experience.
Most of us will go through life and experience tuggings or longings in our hearts. Avery Willis calls this a ‘stirring of your nest’. Sometimes this is God. Other times it is a bad burrito we had for lunch. Staying in God’s word and hearing those around you will help you tell the difference. But when it does seem that God is moving in us or pulling us somewhere or even just calling us to Him, it is important that we understand the situation and make a move.
Here is why. There were about 12 men who saw Jesus walking on water. Verse 33 sums it up, “they worshiped him.” after the other 11 saw Peter and Jesus return to the boat, they had an intimate worship experience. All of them knew him as the son of God, but as far as we know, only one had put his feet upon the crashing waves and walked on a liquid surface, defying everything we know about physics. Yes it was scary. So scary that Peter began to sink. But if I were a bettin man, I’d bet that if you asked Peter if it was worth it, he’d tell you yes, without question. Peter moved, and he did something no one else had done.
In Scripture, we must always find the objective meaning. But we must also always find personal experience with it. This is the challenge of the 21st century Christian. Finding subjectivity within objectivity. Postmodernism goes too far, modernism usually doesn’t go far enough. We can’t say that the meaning is only for us to decide, and we can’t say that the meaning is somewhere floating out in space where no one can reach it.
Jesus’ call to Peter was very clear and very real. But basking in the awe of seeing another man walk on water wasn’t enough for Peter, and it shouldn’t be enough for us. He wanted to experience it for himself. We should never settle for a third person view only, not when we can experience the God of the universe first hand, by our own accord, not when we can taste and smell his presence all around us.
Since completing the IMPACT 360 program, I have returned there as often as I have been able. I do this for a couple of reasons. I like the people there and I have fond memories of the place. But more than these, I return for this: every time I go back to Pine Mountain, God speaks to me, and He calls to me. He shows me a glimpse of what is out on the water. The people at IMPACT 360 challenge me to get out of the boat. They challenge me to see what is out on the water, and go pursue it.