When Moving Forward Means Leaving the Boat Behind

I leaned over the side of the boat and peered at the water that was surging around me.  Lightning ripped across the sky.  Thunder roared.  Darkness surrounded me like a cloak.

Yet, in the midst of the storm, my spirit had heard You call to me…

“Come.”

Seeking to obey, I had used the oars to struggle against the waves, using up all my strength to fight against the wind that was keeping me from moving forward.

No matter how much I tried, that boat would not move forward.

Yet, I still heard You call to me…

“Come.”

How could I come if the boat You had given me no longer propelled me forward?

Unless…

Grasping the edge of the boat, I lifted one foot over the side.  As it hung suspended in the air, the fog of doubt descended, swirling around me and whispering thoughts of fear and that I was crazy to think that You meant for me to walk on the water.  This was impossible.  Who did I think I was?  Surely if this was God’s call – Your call – You would wait until the storm was over and the waters were calm.  This seemed too dangerous and more than a little foolish.  I was too weak.  Too unwise.

My hands grasped the Belt of Truth was buckled firmly around my waist.  Despite all that I perceived, Your Word was the truth upon which I must stand.

“Come.”

My foot slid down onto the surging waters under me.  I was not sure what I would find but I knew that I must listen to the call to come.  My foot landed on the water, but it did not sink beneath the surface.  I glanced down.  I could see the waters and the waves moving, yet it felt like my foot was resting on a rock.

Out of the boatI placed my other foot onto the waters, and stood up.  Questions nibbled at the edge of my mind…what was I going to do with the boat?  Should I try to keep a hold of it, so I would have something to jump back into if things didn’t go well?  Should I try to pull it along?  Maybe I should just get back in…

Just then a wave swept over me.  I lifted my hands to shield my face from the pelting fingers of the cold water.  As I wiped the icy moisture from my eyes, I turned back to the boat…

But it wasn’t there.

Frantically I glanced around.  As another bolt of lightning lit up the sky, I saw the boat, listing helplessly on its side as it was rapidly filling with water.

And then it disappeared from sight.

It was gone.

There would be no going back.

There was only one direction to go now…

And that was forward.

I turned around and took one step.  And then another.  Slow step by cautious step I placed one foot in front of the other.  My courage grew as each time I placed my foot down, I found a firm surface in the midst of the surging waves.

I had taken a few more steps when I saw something fiery orange with tendrils of smoke fly past my face.  I sensed another behind me.  I felt a sharp thud strike against my armor.  I wiped the wetness from my eyes just in time to see the flaming arrow before it disappeared beneath the surface of the water.

Flaming arrows?  Where were they coming from?

I peered into the distance and my eyes traced the outline of ship silhouetted orange against the black of the storm.  On its deck there was a molten sphere that had the appearance of glowing lava.  Shadowy figures darted to blazing furnace, and paused for a moment before lining up along the edge of the deck.  Above their heads flickered miniature red-hot orbs, and then…

Those balls of orange took flight, rapidly growing in size as they flew in my direction.

The darkness between the ship and myself was speckled with orange as the flaming arrows tore through the waves and the rain to land all around me.

I raised up my shield of faith, and in the dark it glowed like a fiery star.  As torrent of arrows continued to attack me, the air was filled with thoughts of fear and discouragement, but before they could take root in my heart and mind, they were extinguished by my shield.

As I continued to stand behind my shield of faith, unsure of where to go, I heard You call to me…

“Come.”

Placing my shield along my right side, I moved forward through the volley of arrows.  For a period of time their intensity increased, and then…

They stopped.

Indeed, there was a pause unlike anything I had felt before.  A menacing, ominous sensation crackled through the air.  The whole ocean and sky gasped for a huge breath, and then a flash of lightning shredded the darkness.  Thunder vibrated the air around me.  Back and forth they dueled, with every increasing intensity.  The barrage of arrows started again and then increased in strength.  Waves of water surged up to the sky, folded in half and then hurtled back to the ocean depths.

By the light that glowed from my shield of faith, I caught a glimpse of black shadows in the water around my feet.

Sharks.

Time and again they came towards me.  With jaws open wide they tried to bite through my metal clad feet, but they could not penetrate the boots of peace with which my feet were shod.  As one shark came in for another hit, a flaming arrow struck its head.  It writhed back and forth, twisting in pain as black oozed from the wound.  I recoiled as the overpowering odor of decay filled the air.

Vultures, brought in by the scent of death in the wind, arrived in countless numbers.  As they flew at my head, the storm did not affect their bombardment.  As they swept past I heard whispers of darkness, evil, lies, and untruths.  They descended upon me in a flurry, their talons seeking to get past my helmet of salvation and breastplate of righteousness so they could shred my mind and my heart.

But my armor held firm, for it had been given to me by the Master Craftsman, Jesus Christ.  My helmet of salvation had been forged in His death and resurrection.  My breastplate of righteousness had not been formed with my own good deeds.  Rather, it was fashioned by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

In the midst of this overwhelming offensive, I heard Your call…

“Come.”

Good cheerAs I took another step forward, my mind flashed back to the peaceful time on the beach where we walked hand in hand, and You taught me Your truth.

“The time is soon coming,” You had said, “When you will have to get out of the boat and walk on the water.  You must do so in my strength and my armor for you are in a battle.  But take heart, for even though you will have much trouble, remember that my Spirit is within you, and I have overcome the world.  Know this to be true!  Indeed, if I am for you, who can successfully come against you?”

You went on to teach me that if I walked with a heart of faith, fixed on You, I would not fall.  And in those moments when I would falter and stumble, I would only fall into Your hands for You were the One holding me up.

And then You put me in the boat and sent me out onto the waters.

And so I went, thankful for the boat that You had provided for me in the large sea of unfamiliar water.  At first the sea was calm.  Gentle waves brushed passed the sides of the boat as I obeyed Your call to…

“Come.”

But then the storm came…

And the boat would no longer move forward, for the wind was prevailing against it.

And still I heard the call.

“Come.”

How could I come when the boat wouldn’t move forward?

And then I understood.

To continue forward, I had to leave the boat behind and walk on the water.

In Your strength.

With Your armor.

Peter said

My mind flew back to the present as the fiery arrows continued to hit my armor.  Sparks glinted off my breastplate of righteousness.

Once again I heard the call.

“Come.”

I faltered.  With the waves crashing, the thunder roaring, and the vultures descending, was my mind playing tricks on me?  Was I even hearing correctly?

In desperation, I cried out for help, for I was finding it difficult to hang on to the light of Your truth and promises in the midst of the storm and the battle.

A gentle, white dove flew past and whispered, “Do not be discouraged.  Do not be dismayed.  I am with You.  Be bold and courageous.”

Refreshed and encouraged by the word of Your truth, I stepped forward as another bolt of lightning ripped across the sky.  There before me I saw my enemy hovering before me, sword drawn.  His eyes were two black abysses of evil.

His lips twisted into a snarl as he opened wide his mouth and roared directly at me.  Vibrations of fear assaulted me as thoughts of retreating tried to take hold of me.

But I remembered Your words, “When the day of evil comes stand your ground.”

So I stood.

Faster than a flicker, the enemy turned into an angel of light and for a moment a doorway of calm seas opened beside him.  He extended his hand and said, “Come.  You are tired.  This surely cannot be what God has for you.  What kind of God would send you into this?  Doesn’t He control the waves and the sea and the wind?  Why doesn’t He calm them for you?”

Through the doorway, golden sunlight danced on gentle waves that lapped against a quiet beach.

A longing for peace, for stillness, for quiet, and a release from the storm surged through me.

He extended his hand, beckoning me to step through.

But then I heard Your call…

“Come.”

I drew myself up and resisted.  Immediately the door and light disappeared and my enemy turned into a serpent.  He slithered to me…

“Did God really tell you to come this way?  In this storm?  In this water?  Who do you think you are?  You can’t walk on water.”

I drew my sword of truth.  It glowed with a pure light, and flashed as I pointed it towards the serpent.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for my Shepherd is with me.  Yes, God’s call leads me through storms, through darkness, but He does not and will not leave me nor forsake me.”

The serpent withdrew his head and I saw his tongue flicker again as he came in for another strike.

“If you continue on this path you will surely die.  You will lose all that you hold dear.”

My heart throbbed and broke at these words.  Pictures flashed through my mind of my children, my husband, my family, my home.  With tears streaming down my face I extended my sword and once again light flashed from it.

“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.  All that I have is Christ’s and is given by His hand.  I came into this world with nothing and I can take nothing with me when I die.  Blessed be the name of the Lord who has given me a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  He is keeping an inheritance for me in heaven, my true home, where He has prepared a place for me.  He holds my family in His hands.  He is in control of their future, not you.  He will not lose any that have been given to him.”

The head of the serpent reared back and then shot forward with a speed faster than I could see, as his tongue flicked back and forth, I saw all the failures of my past flashing through my mind.

“How can you call yourself a child of the King?  Look at all the times you have fallen short.”

The sword in my hand leapt forward, light streaming and flashing in its brilliance.

“If God is for me, who can be against me.  He did not spare His own son, but gave Him up for me.  Because of His great love He has removed my sins as far as the east if from the west.  I stand in His grace, justified by the blood of Christ, forgiven, clothed in His righteousness.  Jesus Christ who died, and more than that is seated at the right hand of God, interceding for me.  Who is the one who condemns me?  No one.”

And suddenly the serpent fled from me.  The battle ships retreated.  The sharks drifted away.  The vultures withdrew.  The thunder and lightning stilled.  The waves quieted.

And I heard the call.

“Come.”

As I took a step the light from my sword pointed the way forward and I became aware that You were beside me, holding me up, strengthening me.

As the light grew, the brilliance of Your beauty and glory, the faithfulness of Yourself, the truth of Your promises overwhelmed me.

I fell to my knees at Your feet and wept, thanking You for Your goodness, for Yourself, for Your truth.

And You said, “Arise my child.  I have prepared work for you.  I will equip you for works of service, so together with all my children, My church will be built up as each part does its work.  You are My masterpiece, created in the image of God, to do good works that I have prepared in advance for you to do.”

“You will call on me, and I will answer you and show you great and unsearchable things that you do not know.  I know the plans that I have for you…plans of good and not evil…of hope and a future.  Therefore, be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid.  Do not be dismayed, for I the Lord your God, will be with you wherever you go.”

Then You clasped my hand in Yours.  You raised me to my feet and said…

“Come.”

Boat Behind2