February 13, 2005

Fear and Reassurance

Another miracle?

When I read this carefully, phrase by phrase, I see something else, and this caused some deep reflection in me. I share this with you:

When evening came – evening is darkness, maybe sorrow.
The disciples went down– down, as in despair?
To the sea - as in awash with tears or trouble? Also, the sea is so vast – you probably cannot even see the other side, you cannot see your way out or across.
Got into a boat – an attempt at keeping oneself afloat.
It was now dark – again the metaphor of darkness, as in absence of light
Jesus had not yet come to them – they did not yet have spiritual provisions that would have been helpful.
The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing – times of turbulence in our lives
They rowed 3-4 miles – we work hard to try to make it on our own in our little boat, even though a boat is tenuous support in a storm. .
They saw Jesus walking on the sea – Jesus was unaffected by the turbulence or the despair or the fear that the disciples felt.
..and (Jesus was) coming near the boat – we sense Jesus near us particularly when we are overwhelmed with fear and despair.
…and they were terrified – meeting their fears face to face. (I wondered: were the disciples actually afraid of Jesus?)
But he said to them, “It is I, do not be afraid.” How reassuring this sounds when you are feeling afraid. Obviously, Jesus was not afraid, not affected by fear, and felt so confident about this he was able to reassure others.
Then they wanted to take him into the boat – they wanted Him with them, they wanted reassurance, they wanted safety, they wanted to let go of their fears.
and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading– actually this does not say that Jesus physically got into the boat with them, but they immediately went where they had been setting out to go. It does not read that the disciples even had to row any more. Jesus in this sense is numinous, not necessarily physical, and yet this presence reassures and accompanies us, and possibly provides a bridge for us over or through the trouble we have.

The implication in this passage for me was to examine my own fears. What am I afraid of? And does knowing Christ change or alleviate this fear? Or, does fear take over in me when I disconnect with that of God, and the circumstances I find myself in are distressing?

Another area of reflection for me in this was thinking about “fear of God.” I have never subscribed to being afraid of God, but I realized that it was /is actually a common experience to fear God. For example, in the Hebrew Bible, the sea was a mysterious and threatening force of God. The Ancient Hebrew’s stressed God’s mastery over the sea when they spoke of God’s power and authority. In Psalms, they exclaimed, “You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise you still them.” Also, (70) “The sea is God’s, for God made it.” The notion here is that people both fear and are reassured by God. I have never felt this notion of fear of God. Circumstances could really impact this, however, as I'm sure those affected by the Tsunami would attest.

I am curious about the role of reassurance and comfort in God. For me, knowing God’s presence is more like knowing this strength, and a deep sense of warmth, love, gratitute, awe, and clarity rather than reassurance that all will turn out safely. Yet these feelings do fill me with peace. Maybe this is just semantics.


At 1:27 p.m., Blogger Larry said...

Super meaningful, Meredith. I first noticed you cited Psalm 107. Strange. I also focused on it, but hadn't yet finished my post. I guess our minds go on many parallel paths. No, I know it.

Re fear: Wink in his latest book went into a diatribe about the fearful, fear inducing scripture and theology that has plagued conventional Christianity through the centuries, and indeed appears rather prominently in some scriptures.

Many years ago as I gave up a 5 year stint as pastor of a church, my lay leader, distressed, said Larry, stay here and keep preaching on love.

I didn't realize it at the time, but church folks may hear entirely too much about the fear, and not remember what John said: "perfect love casts out fear".

At 6:03 a.m., Blogger david said...

I too find the phrase "immediately the boat reached the shore" telling. I almost begs us to read this story as you do -- as a window onto the spiritual life -- having enetered into relationship with Jesus the Teacher the disciples have also entered into a world where anything can happen.

Do I have a faith where I can believe anything could happen? No. Not yet. But neither did the disciples it would appear. They needed to be shown.

At 9:10 a.m., Blogger Marjorie said...

I don't think it is semantics, Meredith. I'm in touch with these feelings of fear, so this does speak to me about Jesus offering comfort. For one who is not experiencing fear, I can see how this speaks of God's love -- different meanings to reach people where they are.

What am I afraid of? I don't know -- I can't see the other side and thats uncomfortable to me. Fear is all around, I fear that I do not know where I am going, I feel the fear of others who may be afraid that I'll leave. As you all know, fear feeds on itself and intensifies. So this passage is helpful to me, Jesus tells me not to be afraid. When I find him, I know I will go where I am headed, even if I don't know where that is.

So when I'm not struggling with fear, when I see that Jesus is on the water near me, that maybe the water isn't rough as I perceive it to be, when I look to him, he gives me peace. The peace that calms the storm, that settles my soul as the waves of a rough sea might be settled.


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