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, began to sink. Mat. 14:29-30
Peter was given only one chance to walk on water. He did well at first but then was broadsided by a desolating thought and immediately felt himself sinking. The familiar story ends with Jesus unceremoniously leading Peter back to his boat. Nothing more was ever mentioned about his aborted attempt to walk on water.
But what if Peter had been given another chance? What if the Lord had brought him back to the same spot the next day? Would Peter have done better on his second, or third attempt? What if, with the help of the Holy Spirit, he got to practice this, over and over again, until he finally got it right? Would he eventually learn how to avoid the type of thinking that keeps scuttling him? Would he come to recognize the temptation of fear that always causes him to sink? Would he finally learn how to keep his eyes on Jesus and become proficient enough in faith to walk on water?
Most of us are much luckier in this than Peter was. We often get second, third and fourth chances to try our hand at faith. Sure, we keep falling into our familiar sink holes, but as we go over the same terrain again and again, we do have opportunity to learn how to approach our spiritual life differently, and to avoid the particular snares that we keep getting caught in. What are some of the repeated pitfalls in your life? What thoughts or attitudes keep causing you to sink? And how does God give you new opportunities each day to experiment with different approaches to these recurring problems? Like learning to ride a bicycle, how does the Holy Spirit keep you from overly losing your balance until you learn to ride on your own?
Because of the Lord’s infinite mercy we often get to go back to the drawing board of our lives. He truly is the God of second chances, and we’ve all been given many more opportunities than we deserve to start over and over again in our lives. As we continue to seek the Spirit’s counsel, we have every reason to hope that we will eventually learn whatever is needed to live a more consistent spiritual life. That is, as long as we don’t give up on ourselves, or on God. Maybe Peter never thought to ask for a second chance. Do we? Or do we presume that we are permanently stuck in our inability to live as we should?
Anyone who has watched toddlers learn how to walk will often see one of two responses to the many times they fall: they either sit where they have fallen and cry, or else they pick themselves up and try again until they get it right. Let us be grateful that God affords us many opportunities to correct our unfruitful approaches to life. And let us also live with hope that, in spite of our many failings, we can eventually grow from toddlers who keep falling, to a maturity that, with God’s help, might one day even walk on water.