Sunday's gospel lesson about Peter walking on water until he starts to sink and Jesus saves him has been on my mind for several days. As one who is not a great swimmer and prefers walking along the beach rather than venturing out into the ocean, the whole idea of stepping out of the boat and onto the surface of the sea seems like a drowning just asking to happen.
Seriously, if I were in a boat being battered by waves, and Jesus invited me to step out onto the ocean and walk, I think I'd be tempted to say, "What the hell for?"
If we are honest with ourselves, I think we'd agree that most of us really feel that way. The invitation is there for us to focus our eyes, our hearts and our minds on God. But instead, we balk at that invite and begin scouring the invitation for the fine print, the black out dates, the exclusionary clause that says, "This unconditional love and grace void and prohibited for the likes of me!"
Why do we always want to make God so limited and so small and petty? Perhaps because we, as humans, can see ourselves placing limits and boundaries on the love we're willing to share. If we can conceive of limits, then surely God must have limits, too.
How quickly we forget the words in Isaiah 55:
"For your thoughts are not my thoughts nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord."
Just because we are willing to place limits and boundaries does not mean that God does the same thing. As it shows in the gospel story, even when Peter gets distracted and takes his eyes off Jesus and starts to sink, Jesus didn't laugh in his face and say, "Suckah!!" Instead, he grabs hold of Peter and, in what I imagine was said in the love shared between two friends, chides him with the line, "O you of little faith!" A reminder to Peter that he was doing fine until he let the winds and choppy sea steal his focus. Much in the same way we, in our day to day living, will allow all kinds of things to interfere with the unboundless Love that surrounds us all the time. Nothing like a crappy job, or lack of employment, to steal the focus on the fact that we are products of Love and we are worthy of Love. And we can live and share our lives out of a place that knows the freedom of that Love.
Centering prayer is a great practice toward training our minds and hearts to focus on Love and keep that as our home base. I've found it useful that way as an additional supplement to the other more liturgical worship I do. It's a way of allowing the space for God to place the invite to come out onto the waters and walk with me, if only for a little while, so that I can see that I can do it, remember it, and let that be the core of how I function. Those days in which I have taken the time to sit in quiet and focus on a sacred word have been the days in which I don't feel myself fighting as hard to keep above the waters that would otherwise drown me.
Perhaps it can be said then that the Kingdom of God is like a vast body of water with no shores to border it where one can feel the coolness of the waves against you and yet never drown.