I recently received an email from a friend, meant to encourage me in the New Year. He asked several questions, one of which was something to the effect of, “Rate your faith right now on a scale of 1-5.” My first flawed instinct was to think back to the past week, weigh the time I spent doing “good things” against all other ways all the times I hadn’t measured up, or I was impatient with my kids, my wife, or wasted time on a screen, etc. I know there can be real value in measuring or tracking growth and my friend had the best of intentions. I do believe that Jesus cares deeply about our hearts and the more we allow him to work in and through us, I believe there is no choice but to experience growth over time. I just don’t know if that ought to be my focus, and I don’t usually trust my ability to measure or even define what progress or success is in faith. It’s interesting how a simple question can so quickly lead me to feel guilt over not measuring up!
I’ve been reflecting on my attitudes about this and how Jesus views me even at my worst or when I fall short and trying to connect to the well-known story of Peter walking on the water in Matthew 14. Jesus called his disciple to follow him onto the waves, even though it was scary. Peter listened and successfully walked on the waves before taking his eyes off of Jesus and looking at his circumstances. When Jesus asks him, “Why did you doubt?” I’ve always viewed this as the same scolding I feel when I fall short. It feels like a reprimand and I can picture myself, like Peter, with my head down on the boat wallowing in a pile of guilt and failure. Not even a “1” on that scale of 1-5. If I could just keep my eyes more focused on Jesus, white knuckle it and try harder, then I wouldn’t sink in the waves, and then I wouldn’t feel so guilty.
But I’ve started to wonder if maybe there is more to that story than what I’ve always thought. What is interesting is that in that moment that Peter started to doubt and sink, Jesus was still walking successfully and never had any problem—there wasn’t a need to doubt Jesus. What if Peter wasn’t doubting Jesus, but doubting himself and felt that HE didn’t have what it takes to walk on water? What if Jesus was saying to Peter, “I wish you could see yourself the way I see you. You have so much potential and I believe in you!” What if the way Jesus sees me is far greater than I view myself, especially when I measure based on my flawed human understanding?
I can say that so often I’m busy striving, living in such a hurry and trying to please Jesus and hold it all together like I really am the one in charge. When I pause, slow down and am quiet, the voice I hear is one that is gentle, loving, and encouraging, reminding me of who He is and who I am In Christ. It reminds me that I’m deeply loved and forgiven no matter what, and no failure could impact that. In addition, I think God wants me to continue to live into who HE created me to be, which entails continuing to call out the lies I still continue to believe about myself or God and replacing them with HIS truth. That seems to be the Jesus in the story that is not chastising or reprimanding Peter for his lack of faith. Rather he is encouraging Peter to continue to keep his eyes on Jesus, yes, but don’t forget the amazing person YOU are made to be!
A question that has been impactful as I journey through this is, “God, what does you loving me in this look like right now?” It’s a simple question, but one that is profound. If we are aware of God’s love for us and how HE is lovingly looking at us, it’s a lot harder to believe the lies about us or think we need to perform in a certain way to measure up and earn God’s love.
*Thoughts inspired by BEMA Discipleship podcast 116 entitled: She Giggled