I was four years old the first time I ever climbed a tree. On that particular afternoon, billowing thunderclouds were building in the distance while above me the sun was shining. I was alone in the back yard and I had managed to climb up on the lower branches of an old elm tree by the fence. The branches were probably only a few feet off the ground, but it seemed like a tremendous height at the time and I was afraid of falling. However, I was fascinated by the sky, and I remember looking up into the vastness of the Texas sky and feeling mesmerized by its magnificent grandeur. As I clung to my lofty perch, the clouds drifted over the sun, blotting out the bright rays. In that moment, watching the clouds roll across the sun, I was filled with a sense of wonder and awe that is still somewhat indescribable and made the moment unforgettable.
I thought about that moment last night as I sat outside on the porch long after dark and watched an incredible electrical storm light the distant sky like a strobe light. The wind whipped around the porch and its whistling moan blended with the sound of distant thunder. I am aware of the dangers of an electrical storm, but sitting there in the dark I felt like throwing all caution to the wind, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the storm and its compelling splendor overpowered my fears.
Fear – can it really keep us safe? Can the thing that keeps us frozen, causes us to hesitate, and urges us to stay in control, does it keep us safe or does it cause us to sink?
And what do we do with our fear – do we try to mask it with strength? Does the one abandoned determine to be emotionally independent – emotionally strong? Does the one who is bullied determine to grow physically strong? Does the one who sits alone in the dark with pounding heart build a strong wall to hide the trembling inside? Is that strength, or is it the coward who is trying to hide fear? Do we try to fix ourselves, name our own problems; pretend we are strong – because we are afraid of the truth – that we are weak?
And if strength does not really overcome fear, than how do we conquer it?
I think we must be compelled by something greater than our fear. When Peter saw the wind and the waves, he was afraid and began to sink. Fear caused him to hesitate and sink. But if he was afraid, why did he step out of the boat? Because he was compelled by the one he loved. He was not paralyzed by fear even though he was facing the sea because his eyes were on something else – his eyes were focused on the one who controlled the wind and the waves. Peter was facing danger but he felt no fear. He was looking beyond the wind and the waves, compelled so strongly to move that he momentarily forgot his fear and the power of the sea.
Mesmerized by the power of the one who held his focus, Peter had the faith to walk on water. It is that kind of faith that moves boulders and mountains in our path -faith that compels us to step out where we fear to tread in strength that is not our own because we keep our eyes on the one who holds us in his gaze.
However, should we look down at the waves and falter, we are not alone in the deep; the one who compels us is there on the sea with us and is able to stretch forth His hand and catch us, “Oh, thou of little faith – oh me of little faith – wherefore didst thou doubt?”