The Buoyancy of Faith (by TB Pasquale)
I spent some time in the ocean this week. Although I live by the water I often forget to get in the salty warm waters that sit only a few miles from my home. It is one of those things that is so accessible it is hard to pause from the pace of life and just get in the water. Isn’t that the way it is with everything, including God? Sometimes it is hard to see and explore what is right in front of us.
When Jesus walks on the water it is the purity in Peter’s heart that gets him out of the boat and into the stormy seas, without thinking, rationalizing, or questioning, he walks into the waves on faith. In doubt we can fall, like Peter did in his eventual fear; in faith we can stay afloat, stay buoyant on God’s belief in us and our belief in God. And even when we have disbelief and lose sight of him, God still pick us up out of the waves and bring us back to the boat and back to hope.
This has been one of those week’s where buoyancy has been hard to come by. Clients in crisis and suicidal, people losing jobs all around me, loved ones in medical emergencies, and fiscal disasters–local and national. When we lose sight of God we can fall. Regardless of what we do his hand is always willing to reach down and pull us out of the waves and back into the boat.
The boat is hope, his hand is salvation, our buoyancy (even if momentary and fluttering) is our faith. The sea and the storms, the waves that pull us under, that is life and life’s struggles.
I love this story of Jesus and Peter because it illuminates the struggles we all have every day, every week, every moment of our lives. I work in a field where I am meant to be the “answer-giver”, I have roles in my life as a teacher, speaker, and guide that mean I should “know” all the time. I am here to say that we never know all the time–no matter what our roles are or whether we are teachers to others. I am privileged to be given the chance, as therapist, as teacher, as leader, to help guide others mind, body, and spirit. But I never want to give the impression that I don’t struggle in the waves. We all do. My stumbling is my own reminder of humility. Faith is my own buoyancy, and sometimes I let go of God’s gaze, feel fear, and dip under the frothy waves. ?
The beauty of God is that even when I sink, his hand waits to catch me. He knows I will fall, it is the human in me, and he does not hold it against me. He always reaches out and gives me another chance to try again, be better, do better, and try harder. If we can be in any way like Peter, just take the leap of faith every once in a while, we will find buoyancy on the water.
In the world right now there are many waves in the ocean and many are reaching up for a breath of air and a hand to carry them back to the boat of hope. The beautiful gift we are given is the tireless grasp of a God who will always be there to pull us from the waves and into the boat. And some days, if we are buoyant enough, there are days we can lift ourselves up out of the water just enough to help someone else through the seas and back to the boat.
Sometimes I think God blesses me as much with the moments of slipping into the sea as with those of rising to the top of the ocean’s surface. Every time I fall, in some way, I learn more about myself and the grace of my humanity.
This week, in a time where I felt a bit low in my own stormy sea, I asked God, “What is the meaning of all this?” He asked me to wait and see, urging that in the waiting I would see what it all meant.
I was given the blessing to be there for two people in my life in the last few days–one familiar and one a stranger–who were falling beneath the waves. In helping them we rose together, higher and stronger.
These persons knowing that even when they could not carry themselves I could help them float; I learned that the key to our own buoyancy can often come in helping someone else who is drowning.
Life is full of these metaphors, these personal “life parables” that God sends us, just when we need it. Our lives on earth are woven together in a delicate pattern and God is constantly giving us a chance to be part of the connected symmetry of all of us. He gives us the option of becoming more buoyant in our own faith, and deal with the many tests of reality as they come. I thank God because without the humanity of the falling I would not continue to be reminded how important it is to rise and in doing so carry others to the surface with me.
I thank you God for the ocean and the storms, the waves crashing down, the boat as a bastion of safety, and your arms lifting me up–constantly teaching me how to lift others up in the waves. I thank you God for the lesson of Peter and the metaphor of faith and buoyancy.
TB Pasquale is a writer, psychotherapist,and a practitioner/educator on the contemplative dimension of faith. She blogs over at www.crookedmystic.com about her own crooked path in Christian tradition and spirituality. She is in the process of finishing a memoir of her journey through trauma and into renewed faith titled “Tales of a Crooked Mystic: A Journey of Spiritual Confusion, Evolution, and a Search for God in the World.”