Today’s guest poster is my very favorite writer, Lois Farra Watkins.
During our trip to Israel, we found ourselves boarding a replica of a first-century fishing boat for a trip on the Sea of Galilee. While at sea, a CD of Christian praise choruses played. Hearing songs, such as “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High,” “Shout to the Lord” and “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord,” was one of my highlights. It was as if I could see Jesus and sense his presence. Perhaps Jesus and the disciples sang praises as they went from one side to the other.
A fun-loving, fatherly-type man teased, “Are you going to get out of the boat and walk on water?” I replied, “I do not see Jesus telling me to come.” He came back with, “But you have the Holy Spirit in you.” So to end the banter, I assured him, “If the Holy Spirit prompts me to get out of the boat, I will. What about you?”
There were no Spirit promptings to get out of the boat, and we had a calm sea to our destination. Yet, I couldn’t help but think of Peter’s adventure on the stormy sea. What do we remember most about Peter walking on the water to Jesus (Matthew 14:22-33)? Do we remember that Peter took the initiative to get out of the boat? That he walked on water? Or that he sank only to be rescued by Jesus? Or that Jesus scolded him for doubting? Most seem to focus his failure.
The challenge is to hear the voice of God—and take the risk. There are two kinds of people:
Peter was assertive, impulsive, didn’t consider the risks and didn’t have a Plan B. We may momentarily honor him for trying. Perhaps we even secretly envy his adventurous experience. But we quickly criticize him for looking at the wind, being fearful, doubting, faltering and facing disgrace among the other eleven.
Then, there are the eleven disciples who never even considered the possibility of walking on water in a raging storm, much less risking an attempt. The eleven, who from the safety of the boat, could emphatically proclaim Jesus as the Son of God after he calmed the storm. But the eleven didn’t have enough faith in the Son of God to risk getting their feet wet. Yet, Jesus does not scold them for not trying. They played it safe with no ill-effects. No doubt they felt pretty smug as a soaking-wet Peter dragged himself back into the boat.
Any risk-taker needs to be prepared for one of two scenarios. 1. Success will lead to being immortalized as a progressive hero. 2. Trying and failing will lead to infamy: a reputation of disgrace and dishonor. The majority will murmur: “Who do they think they are?” “Why weren’t all the risks considered first?” “If they would have only listened to me!”
Is it any wonder so few risks are taken? If success was guaranteed, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. But the essence of trial and error is the risk of error. And some of the most successful people faced failure and humiliation:
Beethoven’s music teacher once told him that as a composer, he was hopeless. Walt Disney was fired by an editor of a newspaper because he, Disney, had no creative ideas. When Thomas Edison was a boy, his teacher told him he was too stupid to learn anything. Henry Ford’s first two automobile businesses failed. Michael Jordon was cut from his high school basketball team. Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 (but he also hit 714 home runs).
Here are some words of wisdom from Thomas Alva Edison:
Results! Why man, I have lots of results. I know several thousand things that won’t work. Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.
B.F. Skinner wrote, “A failure is not always a mistake; it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.” Or to quote John Piper’s book title: If You’re Going to Walk on Water, You Have to Get out of the Boat.
So, this week go out there and feel free to get soaking wet! Learn and rise again to again risk greatly! And to the smug eleven, please withhold the label of failure. Today’s failure may simply be one step closer to success.
Copyright © 2006 Lois Farra Watkins
Lois Farra Watkins is a licensed life coach who can help you navigate life’s rough waters.