“Take a deep breath!”
The stranger’s advice wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, but it was what I needed. My parents had given me permission to rent a rowboat on Glacier Lake at a lodge in Montana. The surface was placid when I pushed off from shore, but on my return the wind increased and waves began to toss my little rowboat from side to side.
I was not an amateur, but the strangeness of an unfamiliar lake, combined with the unwise decision to travel alone led to panic. I pulled so hard on the oars they jumped out of their mounts. Each time I replaced them, they would jump out again.
About that time, an older couple happened to be walking along the shoreline. They spotted my dilemma and the husband yelled out, “It’s alright! You’re not that far away! Take a deep breath!”
I breathed deep.
“Now, put the oars back in and start rowing slowly. You don’t have to hurry. You are so close. Just row slowly. Take your time!”
In moments I was safe on shore. In the meantime, my father had walked out from the lodge and was standing by my rescuer, thanking him for his help. I handed my life jacket to the manager of the boathouse and tried to act as unshaken as possible.
But my cool demeanor couldn’t hide the tremor in my voice. And mostly, I was just embarrassed.
Embarrassment seems to go hand-in-hand with the testing of our faith. Perhaps you remember this unfortunate gospel narrative: “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.”(Luke 22:61-62 NIV)
Jesus had warned Peter that Satan was intending to sift him like wheat. Then He gave him specifics. But it didn’t help. Peter failed the test and came undone. A few days later Jesus appeared on a shore and yelled out, “Friends, have you any fish?” (John 21)
“Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some!” They did, and their net was so full of fish they were unable to haul it in. That’s when John recognized Jesus, and Peter jumped in the water to join Him on the beach. Then Jesus restored Peter to ministry by challenging his understanding of divine love and calling him to feed His sheep.
Peter’s faith was tested, but it wasn’t lost. He was thoroughly embarrassed and his spirit nearly crushed. Yet he still believed. A test of faith is not the same as a lack of faith.
How would you describe the difference between a lapse of faith and a lack of faith? What do you think Jesus meant when He accused others of having “little faith?”
Dear God, I’m breathing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.