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  • Helen Hawersaat

On Water


a doodle by me

I am floating on my back over the ocean, blinded by great light. I am flailing, grasping, water slipping through my fingers. Water is so uncertain, so changeable. It has the appearance, sometimes, of something solid: it takes shape, flowing over stones in a stream. A glass makes it hold form. From the window of an airplane, it looks like a surface on which to rest. But out here in the ocean, there is so far to fall, so much crushing weight.


But you tell me to walk on water.


It was Peter who answered. "Lord," he said, "if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water." "Come," said Jesus.

"Courage!" He had said. "It is I. Do not be afraid." Peter was still afraid. He needed more than a, "This is I." Devils and ghosts have voices, too, and anyone can say that they are God. Peter needed a miracle. He needed a direct order, a simple rule. "If you are really God," he says, "You will tell me to come to you, supported by nothing but you, over this abyss disguised as solid ground. And I will walk over it, and be safe, and I will know that you are really you. If you are not really God, I will step out of this boat, and sink, and die, unless my own effort can keep me afloat in this storm until my brothers can pull me back into this boat."


Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking toward Jesus across the water...

Imagine how terrifying that first step must have been! What made him do it? If he believed that it was Jesus, why did he ask? And if he wasn't sure, why did he get out of the boat?


Maybe this is why he "took fright and began to sink." What if he was walking further and further away from the only solid thing in the sea, flimsy as it was, to nothing? To a demon's tricks? He is out of the reach of his brothers, the tumbling waves growing and falling under his feet, throwing him down, the shadowy figure bobbing in the distance. The wind blows far beyond his strength, and the only things he knows are a silent voice and a sinking ship.


But as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink.

And I? How am I supposed to know your voice, Jesus? I know my fears. I am afraid to conceive again. I am afraid I never will. I am afraid for my sanity if I lose another baby, afraid of postpartum depression, afraid of anxious, colicky newborns. I am afraid that I have some medical problem that will be discovered a few decades too late, afraid of the uncertainty and fear I will have for so long. I would like to think that you wouldn't let me lose another baby, but you have let me lose three. All the time, people lose their homes and jobs and mothers and brothers and children. People are starving. People are schizophrenic. People sink in the sea. How am I supposed to know that you won't let that happen to me? How can I bargain with a God like you?


"Lord! Save me!" he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him.

Hold me, too. And however you do it, Lord, make my uncertainties a solid ground. Make the great depths I stand above, unprotected, the way to you.

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