I’ve always wanted to be an accomplished writer. From the moment I read Alice Walker’s book Meridian at the age of 13, I wanted to be an author. I love the way words exemplify the human condition so concretely. The way a good story can transport a reader from a mundane existence to another world. I love that when expended into the pages of a good book I could be anyone I chose to be and that writing allows me to dream out-loud and share that dream with readers from every walk of life.
Books are magical. Inspiring. Influential. From the heartfelt stories of a Christian novel to the powerful pages of the Holy Bible, books change lives and good writers are invaluable. At a young age, God showed me that writing was my true calling but to step into the life He pre-destined for me I had to activate my faith.
In preparation to walk into my destiny, I spent many years honing my writing skills. Even though when I look back at that time in my life, I realize I didn’t always trust my talent. Therefore, I did other things. I worked various jobs, started businesses and wrote for other people. It was safer to do those things then to go after my dreams head-on. I was afraid to be the writer God wanted me to be until 2005, the year I turned 31-years-old and the same year I lost my mother to cancer. Her death changed my life. It brought forth a strong desire within me to live a life of purpose in dedication to her because she loved me unconditionally. To be the writer I wanted to be I needed faith in God’s promises for my life as well as the support of people who inspired me to move towards my dreams.
Many people have the same story. We are passionate about dancing, but we never become a dancer. We are skilled carpenters, but we take jobs sitting behind a desk. We love to sing, but we never join the choir or share that gift with the world. We hear God’s calling on our lives but refuse to accept it because of our fears. We become what I call boat-people, afraid to take a step out of the boat – our comfort zone – because of our fleeting sense of security and a flawed belief that our God-given talents aren’t good enough to be accepted by the world.
The boat symbolizes the limitations of living in the flesh – an act that’s rocky and unstable yet conventional. Most of us are raised to be boat-people. We are expected to conform to this world and the expectations of man. Stepping away from the boat represents our growing faith in God and finding our true purpose in life. The importance of finding our true purpose is to honor God by fulfilling His Great Commission to spread his teachings to all the nations. When we fail to live a purposeful life and to use our gifts to glorify God’s Kingdom we hinder the spiritual growth within our homes, our communities and the world.
The boat carries many people who believe it’s safer to stay in it than to venture out. But when God has placed in your heart a belief that life has more to offer than sitting in the boat, you experience a powerful pull towards your calling.
In Matthew 14, the Bible illustrates the power of stepping away from the boat and subsequently, fear-stricken boat-people. In these verses, Jesus sends the disciples in a boat to cross a lake and wait for him on the other side. As time progress, Peter and the other disciples find themselves in the boat far from land. The boat had sailed a considerable distance from where Jesus was, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Jesus, who had gone up a mountainside alone to pray, was not with his disciples when the wind and darkness cast fear upon them.
The Bible states in Matthew 14:25-29 (NIV): Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Over the years, I’ve cherished the teachings of these verses. Jesus walks on water and Peter, a commoner, joins him on the water until his lack of faith causes him to sink. Every time I hear this story, I am drawn to understand better the symbolism of the boat itself and how this story is an example of what happens when God is calling for us to walk in our destiny, but we fail to move closer to him. In my opinion, Peter’s failure didn’t come from his lack of faith once he got on the water, but his lack of faith before he stepped out of the boat. In the boat were the other disciples who I imagined were debating what to do. Should they turn back? Should they cry out? Should they drop the anchor and stop moving? They were afraid. Afraid to go forward, move backward or to leave the boat. They were boat-people struggling to save themselves and convinced the situation before them was too dire to be resolved, even by God.
Peter, engulfed in his own fears and those of the other disciples, had to decide what to do. Peter called out to Jesus in Matthew 14:28, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water. Instead of believing that only Jesus would have the power to walk on water, Peter, a loyal disciple, questioned if it was Jesus at all. He was doubtful before he stepped out of the boat.
When I think about my faith to go after my dreams, I realize that I often operate like a boat-person. Rocking from wave to wave during the most turbulent times of my life, I ignore God as He calls to me to take a step out of my comfort zone and away from people who are stuck believing that life has nothing more to offer than their current situation. God has shown me that hidden in each of our DNA is a strain of greatness that we can only tap into with unwavering faith as minuscule as a mustard seed. We should step out of the boat even if we periodically find ourselves sinking because we must perfect our faith walk before reaching the pinnacle of our Christian experience.
My desire to be a writer is God’s way of calling me to get out of the boat. He is telling me to trust Him and to have faith. To fight against the challenges and limitations before me and to go after my dreams. What I’ve learned over the years is that getting out of the boat is one thing, but getting out of the boat in faith is something altogether different.
Stepping out of the boat means stepping away from boat-people
Whenever I hear a sermon on Matthew 14, I always wonder why God called Peter out of the boat but left the other disciples behind? I liken this story to so many of us who are listening to God with one ear and listening to earthy influences – or boat-people – with the other ear. God tells us to come and to have faith that he will direct our path. Boat-people, often comprised of our friends and family who harbor doubt and fear, are whispering words of defeat that often overshadow God’s voice. The other disciples did not ask to step out of the boat. They were satisfied waiting for Jesus to come to them, to show himself and prove that he was capable of walking on water. Peter chose to meet him on the water, while the other disciples chose to remain in the storm.
Was Peter stepping out of the boat to get away from people who doubted Jesus more than he doubted Jesus? Was the doubt in his mind the results of being around other negative people who lacked vision? Moving towards God is a faith walk we often do alone. The men Peter left behind in the boat could not see or understand the destiny God had for his life. But to reach that destiny, Peter needed the faith and fortitude to step away from the norm.
This story is a reminder that what God has for you is for you. Our destiny was determined before we came into this world. Our responsibility is to decide whether to remain in the boat and doubt God or to take steps to fulfill our purpose. The people sitting in the storm with you are often there because they don’t trust that God can bring them out.
Peter stepped out of the boat doubting Jesus’ power. He did not complete the journey, but he did show Jesus and the other disciples that he was willing to take the necessary steps to reach his destiny.
Sometimes we all find ourselves sinking. But God will not let us drown. In Matthew 14; 31-33 the story concludes: Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him [Peter]. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
I encourage you to get out of the boat. Leave the boat-people behind and pursue the life God has prepared before you. Jesus is standing on the water in the middle of the lake with his hands stretched out, waiting for you to come.
Michelle D. Jackson is the author of the inspirational novel, The Heart of a Man. Follow her on Facebook @AuthorMichelleDJackson.
The original article was published in the January 2018 issue of The Mount Christian Magazine. To order an copy visit The Mount website.