My family just returned from a vacation to Niagara Falls. For two weeks prior to the trip, my five-year old son Aaron would tell anyone who would listen, “We are going to go on a boat, and we are going to get wet!”
After arriving at the docks for the Hornblower boats, we got on our red disposable ponchos and boarded the boat. At that point, Aaron had begun to yell, “I don’t want to get wet!”
In the end, he got wet, really wet. We all got wet. My daughter got right next to the rail and pulled back her hood to get super wet. Aaron hung back a little, but even he had to admit at the end that it was fun to go so close to something so big and to get so wet.
Likewise, the disciples had been following Jesus and watching him heal the sick, show kindness to those who were outcast, and teach about the cost of following him. They would probably have nodded sagely as he told the crowds that they had to put aside all earthly comforts and connections in order to follow him. They knew that the life of discipleship was hard and that it took faith, and they were willing to do what needed to be done.
But, they didn’t want to get wet.
They couldn’t quite trust that the Master who cared for so many others would not let them perish in a simple rain storm. And, they couldn’t quite keep the fear of their situation from overwhelming the carefully planned and intellectually acceptable life of faith that they wanted to have. The reality of the water was enough to wash away their faith and leave them huddled against the back railing, struggling to stay away from it.
As Christ’s people, we are marked with water (as in baptism) to remind us that we are his and that he will always care for us. But, that water dries and we do not always live like we are still wet. We are called to keep that feeling of being wet. Jesus wants his disciples—then and now—to build up faith so that it will not be shaken by the waves.
Jesus awoke and calmed the waves—but first, the disciples had to get sopping wet. They had to know that they were not only going to be sidekicks in Jesus’ mission to help other people, but that they were going to have to put some skin in the game, too. They were going to have to get drenched until the moment that they really understood the only one that they could turn to when they were in trouble. Only when they could take their eyes off the situation at hand, and turn to Jesus with their clinging clothes and pasted-down hair and squishy sandals, could they really understand what it meant to have faith.
These stories remind me of an old, beloved hymn:
Jesus, Savior, pilot me,
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treach’rous shoal;
Chart and compass came from Thee:
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.
As a mother stills her child,
Thou canst hush the ocean wild;
Boist’rous waves obey Thy will
When Thou say’st to them, “Be still!”
Wondrous Sov’reign of the sea,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.
When at last I near the shore,
And the fearful breakers roar
’Twixt me and the peaceful rest,
Then, while leaning on Thy breast,
May I hear Thee say to me,
“Fear not, I will pilot thee.”1
Lean into the rail. Pull off your poncho and get soaked. Put your faith in the one that the winds and the waves obey, and know that he will pilot you safely through whatever storm is getting you wet.
Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me” by Edward Hopper ↩