“Were you in the boat when the boat tipped over?”
“Noooooo silly. I was in the water!”
Have you ever heard this joke? Or said it? My neighbor and I started saying it in 1999 and always with a British accent. It is the only thing I can say in a British accent. I have no idea where it came from or why we said it. I actually Googled it for this post and discovered many many other people do it as well, but no one seems to know where it originated. Hmmmm.
“Were you in the boat when the boat tipped over?”
[I know you just answered it, because how could you not? It’s so catchy.]
For hours and hours we would sit in the coffee shop above our local video store (wait video store? What’s that?) taking turns asking and answering this question. We loved it. And I must admit, it has stuck with me. My husband will humor me when I randomly pull it out of retirement and throw it at him. Even my kids will hear me saying it and start doing it too. It’s the same every single time, and yet, every time it last for a few minutes and the laughter comes. Since laughter is good for the heart it’s worth keeping a few tricks like this around. [Know of any others I can add to my arsenal?]
This gimmick is so catchy that even as I was reading a beautiful blog about walking on water today I couldn’t help but find myself asking and answering the question.
Then, slowly, the question changed.
What will you do when the boat tips over?
At summer camp the waterfront extracurricular would take us out onto the small lake and tip us over on purpose, teaching us in the process about the experience. Once you had mastered it with an instructor they would let us go out in small groups of friends. I remember standing in the boat with my cousin singing “I’m a little tea pot short and stout…” rocking it as we went before we would tip the boat at the end of the song (oh if only we had known the gimmick above). Tipping the boat then was fun, carefree, exciting even, because we were in control, we knew what to expect, and we knew what to do when it happened.
But what if it wasn’t planned? What if you were in the boat when you got sucked into a current downstream and capsized after going over the most gorgeous waterfall? What if the boat flipped when you were reeling in a fish and your friend accidentally offset the balance? What if the boat tipped over when you were out in extremely deep waters?
It would be scary, terrifying even, hard to get back to the boat, or worse out from under it. You would feel out of control, and unprepared, and well, wet.
In the story of Peter, Jesus said “come” and he went, but what if Peter had waited in the safety of his boat?
“Hey Lord, I know I said I wanted to do this, but maybe now isn’t the right time. Let’s wait until this storm has passed, or maybe we can come back and try it a few months from now when I’ve shed a few pounds. Or even a year from now when I’ve had time to mentally prepare for this.”
Would the Lord have let him wait? Cowering behind the walls of his boat and excuses in his heart? Maybe.
For a time. But then He’d be there again, “Peter, come.”
“Oh hey Lord, that again? Yeah, okay, but now really isn’t a good time because my mom’s been sick and I need the boat so that I can get to her quickly if something goes wrong. Let’s sit on this for a bit longer, just to make sure this is what you want me to do. Maybe if you could just give me a sign.” Peter says, awkwardly avoiding eye contact as Jesus stands there on the water patiently waiting with his hand outstretched.
Then what? What if Peter had waited and delayed. What if he had hemmed and hawed like I do?
I think it’s possible Jesus would have said okay, take your time, at first. I think this, because I know He has done this with me time and time again. Coming to me for various different reasons, some He had to ask 1 or 2 times, others were harder for me to open myself up to and have required multiple requests, some even spanning over the course of years.
Getting back to Peter though, I think that after a time of showing him what to do and asking several times for him to respond, then Jesus would have just tipped the boat over. Not in anger or malice, but because He had something to teach Peter, and the only way Peter was going to learn was by getting out of the boat.
Have you ever overstayed your welcome in the boat? Are you there right now?
“Andréa it’s time.” He’d say through a cool image on Instagram.
“Now? But it’s so hard to get up when Our Little Queen crawls into my bed every morning.”
“Andréa I’m here, waiting for you.” He’d speak clearly through pastors messages for three weeks in a row.
“I’m here Lord. I’m ready. Mostly.”
“I will. The day after tomorrow’s tomorrow.”
For years we have carried on this type of dialogue. My excuses compounding.
“Oh I love this story Lord, and I can’t wait to write it…later. When it’s had time to fester.”
“I”m so ready Lord, but I keep choking on fear.”
“I hear you Lord, but I’m going to pray about it for awhile to make sure I’m hearing you correctly.”
“Thank you Lord for my love of writing, I know I asked to be a published author but let’s wait until my kids are all in school and I have more time.”
I’m just like Peter, asking for something big, except when the Lord extends His hand to me and says “come” I cower in my boat. I hide in the safety of what I have always known and throw out excuses that I let fester in my heart and ultimately keep me from what the Lord has planned for my life.
I let my fear win over the knowledge that when the Lord calls us to something, He equips us for it.
And it isn’t just with my writing, I’ve done it with other things too. Starting a ministry or stepping down from one, leaving our church, being bold for Christ and standing up for what I believe, sharing the gospel, and on and on.
I tell myself that maybe I heard Him wrong and He isn’t really leading me to X Y or Z. I tell myself that I’m not good enough, that I’m not brave enough, or worse…Someone else will do it.
Now I sound like Moses.
I lack confidence, and I sink before I’ve really even stepped out of the boat.
Until now. He decided I had waited long enough. This time, when He extended His hand and said “Andréa now.” The Lord gave me a plan that I couldn’t resist, one that knocked each of my lame butt excuses on their backsides and insisted I do this.
When I opened my eyes the boat was gone.
In other words, the Lord had something to teach me and whoosh, tipped the boat right over. “What will you do without a boat Andréa? Are you going to sit there idly until you sink or will you step out and trust me?”
And so here I am. Walking. The lake is crystal clear, the sky is blue, Jesus has a plan, a journey that I’m eager to take. I know that storms will come, the sky will cloud, the water will ripple, thunder will sound and lightning will strike, but there’s an energy even in that. In knowing that to get through this and to the blessing on the other side I must fight to stay focused on Him and persevere in a way that I never have before.
Were you in the boat when the boat tipped over?
No silly, I was on the water.
Edited on 4/28/2017: Hey, so I just learned about Susan B Mead and her lovely Friday link up allowing to post up to three of your favorite pieces on walking in faith, or Movement and Motion in the Garden, and since this is one of my favorites but I wrote it so early in my blog journey that it didn’t get much traffic, I decided to go ahead and add it in addition to today’s post Five Minute Friday: More. If you’ve stopped by, please let me know! I’d love to know if this post blessed you or helped you notice areas in your life where the Lord might be calling your name.