Jesus bids me out of the boat and onto the water. At first, I do not want to join him.
Eventually, I give in to his not so subtle pressure. With an “okay fine,” I step over the side of the boat. Feeling exasperated, I walk on the water over to where Jesus is standing.
The waves lift us and drop us on gentle swells. I am not pleased to be here. “What happens next?” I wonder to myself.
I glance back at the boat. Grumpy, sullen faces glare back at me. I’m doing something extraordinary with Jesus, and my boatmates are not happy for me. It’s just as I expected. It’s why I didn’t want to leave the boat. “I just want to be normal,” I tell Jesus, throwing up my hands. “Just an ordinary person like everyone else. None of this walking on water weirdness.”
Jesus is silent. No response to my complaint. He’s just bobbing on the water, looking at me, waiting.
I know what has to happen next. I have to walk away from the boat, leave my boatmates behind, and follow Jesus. I sigh with resignation, start walking on the water, and Jesus falls into step beside me.
Jesus is calling me out of the boat and out onto the water. Reluctantly, I leave my boatmates behind and join Jesus. The soles of my feet are cool and wet.
I’m definitely touching the water, and somehow the water is holding me up, but I don’t sense a surface under my feet just wetness. It’s a very strange, yet at the same time pleasing, sensation.
Jesus and I are walking away from the boat. The water appears to stretch into eternity. We could walk on this water forever. It occurs to me that this is what it is like to transition from this life into the next. Viewed from this perspective, death doesn’t seem so frightening.
I’m in the boat with the others. Jesus is standing beside the boat, holding out his left hand to me. I place my left hand in his, and he helps me step over the side of the boat. Now I am walking on the water with Jesus, my left hand in his right.
I look back at the boat. My companions are rowing away. They have somewhere else to be, something else to do.
I’m feeling subdued, a little more trusting. Maybe I won’t hate whatever task Jesus has assigned me. Is holding hands with Jesus improving my mood? Is it evoking a trusting child response?
I turn my head and speak directly to him. “Where are we going?” Silence. Oh, that is so annoying! Now I’m feeling like a child throwing a temper tantrum. I drop Jesus’ hand and stomp my foot. Jesus looks on amused.
I try to reason with myself. This is Jesus. I can trust him. I might not enjoy whatever we have to do, but it needs to be done. I take his hand again and keep walking on the water.
Suddenly, we’re no longer on the water. We are on land and next to a greenhouse covered in moss. Jesus has given me a spray bottle full of cleaning product and a rag. I spray one of the greenhouse windows and wipe away the moss.
A black man joins me at the greenhouse. I explain what I’m doing, hand him the bottle and rag, and he uses them to remove the moss. The other members of his village join him, and soon they are getting rid of the moss together. I spot Jesus at the back of the crowd. It’s time for us to leave.
Next, we arrive at a greenhouse covered in thick layers of dust. I have a small brush, like something an archeologist would use, and I slowly brush away the dust from one of the windows.
A hispanic man joins me. I explain what I’m doing, and hand him the brush. He starts to clear away the dust, and then the rest of the villagers join him. It’s time to move on. I know that we are headed to an Asian community next.
The third structure is covered in long noodles. I’m offended. Noodles?! That is so stereotypical! Jesus explains that stereotypes are the problem that needs to be removed. The noodles cover a teahouse. I start pulling them off.
An Asian man joins me. I’m annoyed. This is the third time that a man has joined me. Why is it always a man and never a woman? This represents the villagers’ pastor, and most of their pastors are men. I concede the point, but I don’t like it.
I explain to the pastor what I’m doing, and he starts pulling the noodles off of the teahouse. Jesus and I leave before the villagers arrive. I assume that they will pitch in and help him.
Now I’m back in the boat, rowing with my boatmates. Mission accomplished.
My boatmates and I are bailing water as fast as we can, trying to keep the rain and waves from swamping our boat. I remember that Jesus is asleep in the stern, and I wonder if I should warn him that the boat is filling with water.
To do so would be to treat him like a human and since he’s more than human, I decide it’s not necessary to wake him. I keep filling my pail and dumping the water over the side of the boat.
Suddenly, Jesus is standing in the back of the boat looking out across the water, and we are safe in the eye of the storm. I turn my head to see what Jesus is staring at and spot another boat through the sheets of rain, one still being buffeted by the storm and struggling to stay afloat. We grab our oars and head out to intercept the boat in crisis.
As we row, the storm-eye moves with us. We don’t stop until the other boat is also safe within the center of calm. We keep repeating this process. Jesus spots a boat in trouble, we row towards it, the eye of the storm expands as we move, until eventually the troubled boat joins the rest of the flotilla in the ever-widening calm.
Then Jesus notices a boat that is too far away and in too much trouble. We are rowing as hard and as fast as we can, but I know we won’t make it to them before the boat capsizes. Then Jesus disappears and reappears on the imperiled boat, which inconceivably remains afloat. We bring the passengers on board our vessel, and as soon as the last person joins us, Jesus disappears and the boat sinks.
My new boatmates are Syrian refugees -- Muslim fathers, mothers, and children. Our boat is dangerously overcrowded, but I’m not worried. I know that we will safely make it back to the flotilla, and that once we rejoin them the others will take some of our passengers aboard.
Trying to put myself into Mark’s Calming of the Storm episode was more of a challenge than I expected it to be. In the first three attempts, Matthew’s version of the miracle story kept capturing my imagination. I think my visualization skipped the storm because it wasn’t a fear-producing situation for me. I know that story ends well, so if I was going to identify my areas of cowardice and timidity, I needed to put myself into an unfamiliar scene.
Based on attempts 1-3, I’d say that I don’t like being different, I fear death, and I want right of refusal before accepting a call. Those are attitudes that keep me cowardly and timid. In attempt 3, I seem to overcome those fears and engage in a short-term ministry. So, it is possible to overcome fears, but only when I keep a hold of Jesus.
Attempt 4 has me asking what kind of Jesus I am holding on to. I do believe that he is more than human. I do believe that he loves everyone, including Muslims. I do want his power and influence to constantly expand and save everyone.
Reality does not support the fantasy that my visualization exercise offered up. Syrian refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean. Jesus did not intervene, superhero like, on their behalf. Countries have not instantly integrated those who did make it to their borders. The welcome from the Christians of these nations seems tentative at best.
Attempt 4 is how I want Jesus, the Church, and Christians to behave. When these hopes are crushed, do I then become timid and cowardly? It might be that I get timid and cowardly in the face of a crisis because the superhero image of Christ and the problem of human evil act as a double whammy on my faith. A divine superhero is not vanquishing every human supervillain reported in the news. Churches and Christians are not rising to the challenge. As a result, my response to the crisis is tentative and unsure. I need to spend some more time pondering that possibility.