As a child, swimming in a creek near our home was one of our favorite summer pastimes. All of my friends loved to jump off the bridge into the deep end of the creek. Not being able to swim, my father always had to jump with me causing me much grief from the other kids. Daddy tried everything to teach me, and I continued to swim like a rock. No matter what method or even how often daddy tried, he always wound up fishing me out after my failed attempt. I became so discouraged that I started looking for excuses not to go swimming with all my friends.
One day my father took me to the top of the bridge and said, “Son, you know everything you need to know to swim, you‘re just afraid to let go of me.” After some talking and lots of “fatherly persuasion” he convinced me to jump off the bridge alone, promising to be waiting in the deep end to help me. Just before he jumped into the water he said, “Son, I promise.” I can still feel my heart racing as I closed my eyes and hesitantly took that first step off the bridge‘s guard rail. It turned out to be one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.
We often let fear and past failures hold us back in life. Many times we know what our hearts are leading us to do, we are just too fearful to let go so the fun can begin. In Matthew 14, the disciples see Jesus walking on the water. Peter feels led to join Jesus on the water, and allows his faith in Jesus to give him the courage to step out of the boat. It doesn‘t go perfectly. Peter winds up sinking into the sea only to be fished out by Jesus. But for a few moments Peter also walked on the water. He made other mistakes, like lopping off the ear of a priest‘s servant when Jesus was arrested (John 18:10) and even denying knowing Jesus while Jesus was on trial (Matthew 26:69-75). Peter could have let fear of failing again hamper his faith and ministry. Instead he kept trying, and became a foundational teacher and example of faith.
There are times when we need to stop dreaming and start walking. There are times when we simply must follow the spiritual pull on our hearts, trusting God‘s promises and put our past behind us. The real joys of faith and life will never be found standing on the shores, but out on the water where Jesus is. Often times it simply takes the first step, almost like jumping off a bridge. Mistakes do slow us down, but they don‘t have to take us out of the game.