Dog-Paddling or Water-Walking? Trusting Jesus

by Julie Barrier

Fierce, contrary winds whipped the waves of the Galilean Sea like a frothy meringue. Jesus’ rag-tag team shivered in their sandals as their tiny wooden skiff tossed about on the choppy sea. White-knuckled, Jesus’ motley crew squinted hard to see the shoreline. A ghostly apparition approach the tiny vessel. Wide-eyed, the crew saw that it was Jesus, tip-toeing over the surface of the water. Frozen by fear, the sudden appearance of their Master gave them a glimmer of hope.

Could this really be Jesus?

Peter, the off-again on-again disciple, called out to the Savior and asked Him if he could join his wave-walking. Jesus said yes, and Peter leapt out of the boat. No dunking, no drowning. His cohorts were stunned. Their rough-and-tumble buddy was doing the miraculous. But not for long. Peter, feeling his oats, decided to wave to the other disciples behind him and started gloating over floating.

Then the whole miracle started to unravel. When the crusty fisherman took his eyes off of the prize and broke His gaze on Jesus, he dipped lower and lower beneath the surface of the water. Terrified, Peter screamed for his Holy Lifeguard to pull him out of the deep. Ever faithful, Jesus took Peter’s hand and safely returned him to the boat. 

We often deride Peter for his failure to trust His Messiah. We call him impulsive, reckless and immature. But at least Peter got out of the boat. Do you? Have you learned to float? Here’s are a few lessons on swimming from my sister Kathy and me. 

One balmy June morning in my sixth year of life, Daddy tried to teach me the fine art of ‘cannon-balling’ off the diving board into his awaiting arms. He failed to notice my little sister Kathy. “Tiger Lil” (an apt nickname) was aggravated at being ignored and decided to swim to the deep end where we were splashing. Three-year-old Kathy had never read about Peter, but she had similar inspiration. She wanted to go see her Daddy. 

Kathy’s idea of swimming was taking a brisk walk on the bottom of the pool. Dad shot toward her like a rocket and carefully explained to her that there is no air under the water. Mom was a land-lubber. She thought it unladylike and distasteful to get wet in public. After a heated discussion, they concurred that we needed swimming lessons. 

Mavis Wilford (we nick-named her Mavis Wafflebottom) had leathery, pruny legs the size of tree trunks. Her faded, checkered swimsuit with the pleated petal skirt had seen many summers of dog-paddling and pool-floundering. Mavis was hard-core. Nobody left her class without a respectable American Crawl.

I’m sure Mavis was Baptist because her first lesson included a swift kick to the rear and full immersion. Her little charges bobbed to the top, screaming and sputtering. But their little arms flapped and their fat feet kicked ‘til they stayed topside. Gentler swim teachers wasted time with gentle bubble-blowing and face-dipping in the shallow end. Wimps.

I helped my little sister Kathy overcome her fear of drowning by giving her daily swirlies. The swirler took the victim’s head, plunged it in the toilet bowl and flushed repeatedly. If the swirlee didn’t learn to hold his or her breath underwater, Mavis’ water-Nazi dunking would be terrifying. I was just trying to prepare Kathy for Mavis. Really. My water-boarding techniques worked. Kathy was the star of the class, puttering around the pool perimeter like Nemo.

Strong and sturdy Mavis was not affable or patient, but she got the job done. We could dive, thrive and shoot across the pool confidently and consistently. The laws of hydrology never change. Water-displacement and buoyancy will support any human, no matter how portly or clumsy.

Jesus’ power and character never alters. He will always be there. He will never, ever let you drown. Displace your doubt with faith. Stop floundering and start floating. Start faithing and stop fighting. Your spiritual journey will allow you to graduate from bubble-blowing to dog-paddling to lap-swimming to diving in the deep end. The more you trust, the more you know Jesus, you will be “walking on water” before you know it!



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