Friday, 17 June 2011

'Take heart; it is I'

Matthew 14: 22-33  
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’  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 towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

I've recently been thinking about different people I know of, in various difficult places of pain.  Thinking a bit about bereavement contexts and that we live in a culture that is not good at coping with death, let alone other kinds of loss.  Sometimes it is though the only time there's permission to talk about loss is within the confines of the death of a loved one... and that after about a month, really, one needs to get on with their lives.  Our instant, microwave society wants to move on, or tries to move too quickly through the 'seen it, done it, bought the t-shirt' processes.  And by doing so, dismisses and diminishes the pain of loss unhelpfully.

Beyond physical death there is also the death of a dream, a hoped-for different future; loss of job - redundancy or retirement spring to mind - and sometimes with that, a sense of identity loss; or friends and family moving away or the end of a particular relationship.  But always, the demands of a society that presses us to keep moving, to run across the water for fear of sinking.  Are we, as a society, so terrified of the thoughts and feelings that might emerge if we dare to stop, be still, take time, and...be?  Are we terrified to encounter all the 'stuff' pushed down into the depths and covered over with noise, busyness, the endless distraction of doing?  And if so, why?  I suspect that no amount of shoving things to the bottom of the pile will prevent them coming to the surface in some form or other.  And perhaps the more we are urged to keep running for fear of sinking, the more likely it is that we will end up not waving, but drowning. 

When the overwhelming stuff of life happens, as it does, I've found that the picture above has been a huge help to me.  In a space when words are impossible, the picture is, for me, a solid reminder that although 'stuff' happens, we don't go through it alone... that when the water seems to be closing in over our heads and we flap around frantically, the strong arm of the Lord is there - even though we might not feel it is.
And so, I post this pic. today as I think of different friends... as a prayer and as a visual reminder that no matter how dark or deep, there is one who journeys alongside, whispering 'take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.'  

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