The Fisherman Who Could Not Swim
by Tim Black
A story has been circulating for some time that I need to correct. I need to set the record straight with you all about this water-walking that Jesus and I did together. I don’t suppose it ever occurred to any of you why I did not just swim back to the boat that night??
Why I didn’t just call it a night, laugh off the fact that I had gotten all wet and crawl back into the boat?
Why I couldn’t extract myself from the waves??
I’m just going to say it to get this over with-
I was a fisherman who could not swim.
Years of fishing- ever since I was a child- I never learned! I never stepped out of the boat…I was afraid of the water! But no one knew until recently. My secret was safe. I had made a life out of staying out of the water and in the boat:
Whenever the nets needed to be pulled off of the barnacles on the bottom of the boat- I got one of the others to pull them off. One of my brothers or one of the other young boys that worked the boats with me. Whenever someone had to jump out of the boat into deep water to unhook a line off of some coral or brush someone else was always around to do the dirty work for me.
I never learned to swim! I lived under the assumption that I could fool everyone all the time- That I could fool even Jesus with my secret.
“I am the Rock, after all,” I would think with great pride- an impregnable fortress!! They would never know—
Not too long ago, though one day-
Jesus was tired and he needed a rest. He’d been keeping a busy schedule of healing and feeding and preaching. Jesus told us to go for a sail while he took some time for himself alone.
“I’m gonna walk up there,” he pointed up a hill, “and believe it or not, I am going to take a nap. Why don’t you all go out on the boat and relax a little- ..”
It was late in the day- getting a little cloudy too-
We all resisted---
He smiled and said “Looks like a great day for a sail to me!! And that’s an order!!”
So we sailed the boat out to the middle of the lake- Jesus walked up the hill to be alone. I was getting kind of drowsy myself… I settled in a corner of the boat and drifted off to sleep.
I woke up after I don’t know how long- I must have been really tired because it was dark outside- there was a huge moon shining on the lake that night.
Everything was foggy- In spite of the silvery light, I could barely see the others sitting on the boat. I heard thunder off in the distance and the wind started to raise a bit the waves started getting white capped and the lake swollen--
Then, we all heard a rhythmic splish-splashing off the side of the boat!! Splish-splash- splish splash-
“Who on earth is swimming out there right now??” we all asked one another. But it wasn’t quite the sounds of someone swimming.
Then, we all see something in the distance- hovering just above the water. Our breath stops- a ghost, a phantom- some kind of devil??
This demon looks like Jesus, this phantom- - —walking on water.
I see this ghost motioning towards us- saying, I think to me, “Come on out here!!” I figure I’m dreaming. Or if I am not, then surely a ghost won’t know who I am-
So, As usual, I opened my mouth…
“If you’re Jesus… then… who am I???”
“Peter…. “ I heard him in the distance.. “Come on out here.. I want to tell you something..”
I looked around the boat…
Yes you! You see any other people named Peter on the boat!! Come on out here!!!
I am not sleeping, I realize- and I also realize that Jesus- or whoever this is, wants me out of the boat!!
“Peter- come on over I want to tell you something!!!”
So, I stepped out of the boat.
WALKED ON WATER—like it was the street running in front of my house- like it was the beach.. Water has kind of a squshy feeling under your feet.
Kind of a cross between mud and wet sand. It felt good under my feet!!!
But then I realized-
IM WALKING ON WATER AND I CANT SWIM!!
I looked down –
AND I SANK!
(Like the Rock I am).
I figured it was all over- maybe one of the others would brave the cold water and rescue me. But as I sank underneath the waves… All I could think was , “LORD HELP ME!!”
And, then I see an arm reach under the water. It grabs my hand, pulls me up and makes me stand up again on the water… I stood there- shaking- freezing from the cold water- from the wind blowing – the fog and the elements
“You’re all wet, Peter!!! Why didn’t you tell me you couldn’t swim! “
“But how did you know??”
“It wasn’t that hard- The way you looked every time we got near the boats or waded in the water…I think we all knew…”
We stood there together and he told me something I never forgot.
" Peter- I love you even though sometimes you are rather rock like- you’re hard- hard headed- hard-hearted. Even when you feel your most helpless know that I will always be there trying to get through – trying to get you out of the boat…”
We walked back to the boat-
“And yes,” he added, “you need to learn to swim. That's why I put all these other people here in the boat with you…”
But master , I told him,, “I can’t….”
He cut me off- “You of little faith, why do you doubt?’ Peter- The first thing I ask if you is to love me and the second?”
“Love everyone else..”
I realized then that when I trust my brothers and sisters with my weakness I am letting them in- loving them- letting them be a part of who I really am as one of God’s children. I am stepping out of the boat.
I am learning to have faith that is rock like.
What this Rock learned that night is that we are all here to help each other swim- survive- thrive.
Jesus said to me, “Keep your eyes on me—on the love that I have brought here for you to share- to live out—and you will never sink…”
I once thought that ours was a God who did not suffer fools lightly. A god that did not tolerate weakness of any sort…Not a God who loved our weaknesses as much as our strengths. Not a God who required us to trust one another in our weakness- have faith in one another and God that we could overcome with God’s help..
Faith is a word we use in our little group quite a bit-
Some people say it is believing without seeing- Believing in things beyond understanding- beyond comprehension.
Faith is something we do, though, when we step out of the boat. When Christ calls us out of the boat, even though our gut tells us we will sink-
Faith beckons us to own up to our weakness-to own up to the weaknesses of others-to love ourselves and one another. It calls us to use our strength to bring those among us who are under the waves up upon the water and to throw our power and our resources- (in spite of all of our reasonable objections)- behind his children- the LEAST of all these – to bring them up out of the depths in spite of our obvious shortcomings that put us there in the first place.
We not only learn to swim-
We- walk on water.