I feels like a very long time ago that God sent me two little gifts; a nine-year-old girl and her ten-year-old sister.  The ten-year-old was actually just a few days shy of eleven.  I was 23 and a lot shy of grown-up.  In just two years, I became 25 going on 50.  I knew I was going on 50 by the number of times I was told I had midvictorian values and old-fashioned ideas.  I also knew by the way I felt; tired – really tired – and weighted down by the knowledge that my early childhood beliefs were all wrong.  I could not do anything I really wanted to do if I just tried hard enough.  I could never erase the emotional damages caused by the ugliness of their early lives.  I could only hope to rebuild and restore.  To erase old tapes that said “you have no value” and replace them with tapes that said “you are loved and your life is worthwhile.”

Last Wednesday, the pastor asked us a question.  He wanted to know whether or not we would undertake a service for the Lord if we absolutely knew that we would succeed.  I think he put it, “If you knew absolutely when you crossed the street to talk to your neighbor about the Lord that you would succeed, would you do it?”  I think he expected the automatic response to be “yes”.  I think he thought fear of failure was the only reason some of us aren’t crossing those streets.  But I had questions – queries – after all these years of serving the Lord and crossing streets for His Kingdom.  I wanted to know how wide the street was between me and the neighbor.  I wanted to know how bad the traffic.  I wanted to know if there were any storms likely to blow up once I left the safety of my home to cross the street.

Those two gifts God sent me then were not the first of His gifts.  He had sent me two biological children prior to their arrival.  Since their arrival there have been two more biological children, three adoptive children and several foster children.  He sent these children to me and said “Tell them about Me.”  No problem.  I wanted to tell them about the Lord.  I wanted them to know where to go for help when they needed it.  Certainly without Him, I would be buried in the sea of problems life has handed me.  I learned in accepting these gifts that the seas I had known were nothing compared with the oceans these children brought with them.  Storms brought on by the emotional problems of children who have been abused can be emotionally devastating to those of us who love them.

Didn’t the Lord go with Me?  Yes.  Yes, He did.  Then what’s the problem?  The problem is, I don’t much like being a water-walker.  Peter would understand what I’m saying.  He sat there in that boat during the storm, scared to death.  Then the Lord came walking to him across the water.  He said, “Lord, if that’s you, let me walk out to you.”  And the Lord let him come.  I said that myself when the first two came.  And the Lord let me come, too.  Like Peter, though, I got out on that water and the waves looked even worse there than they had from the boat.  The waves are really scary out there.  And there isn’t any way to get back to the boat unless you grab hold of the Lord and He carries you back.  Sometimes it takes a long time to get back.

A few months ago, I was presented with the problem of finishing my family.  I thought the Lord and I had worked this thing out.  I talked to Him.  I reminded Him of the cost of loving the least of these as He would have me to do.  He reminded me of the gains.  I thought we had it solved.  Now one of the children has blown up a storm unlike anything I have ever seen before.  I’m going to have to get out of the boat and get back on the water – again.  I wonder sometimes, did Peter ever want to try that twice or am I the only one who thinks that with practice I can get it right?  With practice I can learn to stop swallowing salt water?  The Lord said to me “I’ve got this thing.”  I stepped out unafraid.  I wonder how long it will take me to swallow all the water in this ocean.

The last adoption is on hold while I wait for the storm to subside.  Right now, I believe that if I ever get back in that boat, I’m heading for shore and I’m not coming back on this ocean again!  Plans that were made years ago can easily be set aside.  I just don’t naturally enjoy water-walking. I know it’s good Christian theology to say that God has assigned us a task above what we could do on our own so we can never become overly proud of what “we” accomplished.  I can agree with that.  I just don’t want to live it.  Have you ever been on a carnival ride that scared the dickens out of you but you couldn’t get off until it was over?  You could only hope and pray that the carnival people kept their equipment in good repair?  Water-walking is a lot like that.  I never liked those carnival rides, either.

To get back to the Pastor’s question.  Would I do it if I knew I would succeed?  I’ve done it and I know I will succeed.  Still, I want to know how much water there is between here and there.  And just how high are the waves? The pastor said Peter probably had a few questions, himself.  For one, I personally think he wanted to know how come he was the only one out there walking on that water.  I don’t know if Peter particularly put it that way.  I don’t know if he really even looked around to check see if he was the only one out there.  When you’re out there on that water and you take your eyes off the Lord, you get dunked and you swallow a lot of stuff you’d really rather not swallow.

I agree with the pastor.  He probably did want some answers.  The Bible records that he took his eyes off the Lord and began to sink so it’s obvious he learned quick where to be looking.  And it never does record him yelling, “How come I’m the only one you asked to come out here and swallow this entire dang stinking ocean!”  Maybe he didn’t yell it.  Maybe I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t because I know for a fact there are others out there, too.  I see them from time to time when the Lord let’s me have some time on the boat.  Some of them drown that wouldn’t have needed to drown.  If somebody had been there to show them how, they could have made it, I think.

I’m wondering, maybe – just maybe – I’ve taken on enough storms.  Maybe it’s time to start giving instructions to the others in the boat before they get out there and start walking.  Heaven knows, I’ve made probably all the mistakes that can be made.  I’ve learned a lot about what makes you swallow water.  Maybe, if someone had told them, those others would not have drowned. I wouldn’t mind teaching.  Sitting in the boat teaching, I could do.  Maybe.  Once you’ve been out on the water in the storm, being in the boat is relatively peaceful.  I could handle that.

To get back to the pastor’s question – would I do it?  I don’t really want to.  It’s not that I don’t want to serve the Lord.  I’d just like to change jobs.  And, if the Lord said it was okay, I could sure use a vacation.  It’s been almost 20 years now since I first became a parent and I think I’d like a break.  I don’t want a vacation from the Lord.  Not at all.  I’ve been becoming who He is now for so many years, I don’t think I could separate and still be me.  I just want a vacation.  Sit on the beach, soak up the sun, talk a lot, learn to understand a little more, get away from the water-walking a little while.  Not long.  Just long enough to come back refreshed and able to help. I know about the harvest.  I know there is so little time.  I know there are so many who need the Lord.  I don’t know how they’ve lived this long without Him.  But I know, too, about the human aging process.  At some point, we cross over a bridge where those of us who are older and wiser stop doing the walking and start teaching those who are younger and cockier how not to take in so much salt.  It’s bad for you.  Makes you gag a lot.

Back to the pastor’s question.  If I knew I would succeed, would I do it?  With the Lord, I know I will succeed.  Will I do it?  I don’t know.  I don’t know if I’ve crossed the bridge yet.  I think, maybe, if the pastor asked me to do it, I’d ask all those questions and I still wouldn’t be sure. I think, for me, the question needs to start something like this – “If the Lord asked you to do it –”. That one I could answer.  ”Look, Lord, this time when we’re out there, warn me when those waves are headed this way so I can keep from swallowing that stuff.  I hate the taste of that stuff.  And hold on tight ’cause my knees get to shaking and sometimes I close my eyes and I get dunked.  If you were holding on, I wouldn’t dunk so fast and you know I’d keep my eyes on you except they sting sometimes and . . .”

(This article cannot be reprinted without the expression permission of the author)

By C.J. Henderson

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