So You Want to Walk on Water

October 3, 2011 | 18 comments

I stand here, among the cypress and oak that cling to the banks of a Texas river. It’s one of those calm mornings, where the world is stretching awake soundless. I am a spectator to God’s quiet majesty, where the Creator has carved a notch in Earth by using a river — a long, intentional carving.

And it is here in the quiet, where I hear Him speak. Always in the quiet.  

The words come like a whisper to the ears, a cymbal clash to the soul. It’s Peter’s words, actually. 

“Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

Here on the banks, far from my Iowa home, I remember Peter and his friends out on the Sea of Galilee. Two-thousand years later, I’m standing stock-still on the shore.  

I think this thought: Peter and I, we don’t have much in common.

Peter was in the boat, poised to take one giant leap onto the water. Yet, you’ll often find me standing on the shore of this life, too fearful to take one small step into the boat.

I’ve always admired people like Peter, who take huge leaps of faith into the great unknown. Their steps into the next new thing aren’t always pretty or perfect. Sometimes they end up all wet. 

Shore-sitters like me owe gratitude to people like Peter. They are our world’s visionaries. They take risks, without first calculating every single outcome. They jump onto the water, without first making sure they look good in the bathing suit. 

They step onto the water, with a burst of courage that I rarely can muster up. In business-speak, you might call Peter an innovator or an early adopter. Me? I too often fit into one of two groups: “late majority” and “laggards.”

It’s been that way, even before I have memory of it.

Most children take their first steps around one year. A few little ones — the early adopters of toddler-hood — might start walking at nine or ten months. My mother took me to the doctor at age 16 months because I still hadn’t taken my first, unaided step. I was satisfied with scooting around on the polished wood floors.

I remember these things on the shore, where I stand with shore-bound feet. I remember Jesus’ invitation.

Jesus invited Peter to walk on the water. His invitation is for us as well. “If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat,” Pastor John Ortberg once wrote.

But for me, the first miracle comes when I actually step into the boat — even if I’m afraid it might capsize or take me far from shore. It’s the first move against Fear. It’s the inner voice telling Fear that it will not have the last word.

How about you, friend? Does fear hold you back from stepping into the boat? Are you an early adopter? A laggard?

(Photo: The Frio River.)
Linking up with Laura’s Playdates with God series today.

by | October 3, 2011 | 18 comments


  1. Deidra

    I’m with you – it’s the getting in the boat that’s a big step for me! Your words hit me strongly: “They are our world’s visionaries. They take risks, without first calculating every single outcome. They jump onto the water, without first making sure they look good in the bathing suit.”

    That’s so me. I try to figure out everything and consequently end up doing nothing. Thank you for this thought provoking post. Very motivational for me on an otherwise lacking day.

  2. Sheila

    I am raising my hand to say “me too.”

    I’m too good at thinking through the possibilities, laying contingency plans. And not nearly good enough at depending on Him and the truth of His Word.

  3. Laura

    I’ve often marveled at myself for criticizing that overzealous disciple when he began to sink, knowing full well in my heart the courage it must have taken to get out of that boat. Good grief, just think of what we could do.
    Ah, but just for the record, sweet friend: I’ll never think of you as fearful. Only brave. It’s that last line you read to our group–the ascending of the stairs despite the fear. That’s what you do so well. I think we could all learn some lessons from that girl of yours. 🙂

  4. kendal

    definitely prefer the shore. i had thought about not stepping out of the boat before when reading this passage. i hadn’t thought about the shore though. great post.

  5. Linda

    I am standing there with you Jennifer – always the timid one waiting for someone else to take the first step. Perhaps, for some of us, the first step is the knowing so that we can learn to walk wherever His heart leads us.

  6. Patty

    Hmmm, honest and thought provoking as always. I’m not sure where I am in the picture you paint. Some days I doubt the very existance of a shore, a boat, an invitation or even a lake; the fear seems like the only “real” tangible thing. On those days I can only cling to the cry of the desperate parent in Mark 9: “Lord I believe! Help my unbelief.”
    May you continue to be blessed with courage as you answer His invitations!
    love you friend.

  7. Laura

    Thank you for sharing your lovely reflections. I felt a heart to heart connection as I read about your fears. I have been a “shore-sitter” all my life, but God is teaching me to dip my toes in the water, because there is something bigger than my fears,and it is something too good to miss.

  8. Dawn @ Dawnings

    A laggard here, clinging frantically and lovingly to the coat tails of my innovator husband. He’s often said Peter is the disciple he most identifies with.

    That Frio River is gorgeous! Perfect for early morning water-walking. Just be careful getting out of that canoe.

  9. Megan Willome

    The 16-months part made me laugh. My kids were both late walkers, too. Not quite that late, though. 🙂

    Ah well. You know, we can’t all be Peter. There is a need for a John, too (this is what my husband, John, tells me).

  10. S. Etole

    Lots and lots of “sand in my shoes.”

  11. Jenn Hand

    Wow. something I had never thought of.. that at least peter was in the boat. I did a whole retreat called walking on water for some college kids– and I think I learned more teaching it then they did hearing it. God’s longings for me to get out of the boat and walk on water. Thanks for sharing

  12. Jenn Hand

    what an awesome post. Had never thought about the fact that peter was in the boat and sometimes we aren’t even there.. how cool. Blessings

  13. Joan

    Sometimes (more often than I would like to admit) I am fearful. Taking chances and stepping out there is difficult. But with God, all things are possible! I can trust Him to accomplish all He wants to accomplish when I submit myself to Him. Thanks for the encouraging post!

  14. patsy

    I remember when I was single and God gave me a word to step out in faith, to get out of the boat. He wanted me to get married! That was a BIG step for me! But as He promised, when we follow Him, there is BIG blessing attached when we obey! Patsy from HeARTworks

  15. Diana Trautwein

    I’m with Lyla on this one. Lovely photo, lovely words, lovely giggle at the bathing suit reference, lovely you. Wish we could have seen more of each other, but I also like hangin’ out with you on the blog here – always refreshed and reminded when I come here. I SO get the fear thing, oh, yes I do. I blogged about that part a little bit while we were on the Frio and hopefully I’ll get to some memory-sharing pretty soon here. After I get a full night’s sleep, maybe the words will show up!

  16. Patricia

    see… and then there’s the goofy ones like me who end up all wet in the water, looking like a fool (with just as little faith) and I’ve never once seen it as bravery… but foolishness… or pride… longing for the shore and wishing I’d stayed there. You have made me smile. Wet or dry, the point is… he is still always calling us to come… no matter how we get there. Love being in community with you girls. = ) Blessings to you on this good God day.

  17. Sandra Heska King

    Ummm, I brought my swimsuit, but did you see I didn’t don it? Maybe I’ll have dropped a few pounds by next year. 😉

    I like being in the boat, out seeing the sights. Those sights include the shore since I like to know I can find my way back if a storm comes up. I trailed my fingers in the water while in that kayak–until I remembered someone saying something about a snapping turtle.

    I’m learning more and more to keep my eyes on Him.



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