Monday, January 23, 2012

Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

The music rolls in the background, setting the scene for the woman to lose her mind. Suddenly she is unconsolable. You saw it coming to be sure, but this is unfathomable. She is flailing, ranting, mad... destroying anything in her path. From fine china to furniture she is a dervish of hatred and violence and you marvel at her lack of control. Finally, a man enters the scene and takes the woman into his grasp. She is a lunatic still, his presence doesn't calm her, in fact it looks to enrage her further. Suddenly, without letting her out of his grasp the man pushes her to arms length and lets go with one hand to haul back and slap her twisted grimace. Just like that she is brought back to her senses and silence falls between them like fresh snow as he gathers her close to his burly chest in comfort.

Eighties dramas were awesome! Overacted, overdramatic, incredible crazy clothing and big hair... But there's something to that scene that resonates with me. That moment of madness stopped cold in its tracks by a swift and decisive action that brings it all back into focus. It has happened to me, you know. Not that the Man has ever dared to slap me, but God has. Figuratively speaking, of course, but still incredibly effective.

We have all been there if we can look back and pay close attention. You lose your focus on what is important, slowly drifting away from the little things that keep your eyes on God and not on this crazy, upside down world. Slowly the busyness of the day creeps in and you are focused on the bills, the lack of money to pay them. You start wondering why people can't see how painful it is. Why are they so selfish and callous? You begin to wonder where God has gotten to and why He seems to have left you to the wolves. All the while, Christ walks by your side trying to get your attention and going very much unheard over the din of your own mind.

It is normal. The laundry list of things we need to get done in a day can become this monster we tote around our necks. We don't want the monster that close to us, but it all needs taken care of, right? After all, if you don't do it, who will? You have to be the master of your destiny, you need to look out for number one, you alone are in control and you are the only one who cares... getting a bit dramatic for you is it? Yeah... But face it, it's familiar too.

We are in good company, you know. Peter, the dude Christ chose to run His church after the ascension, was a lot like that. He was passionate and completely devoted to Christ. I know you cannot debate that. He also had this habit of losing his focus, at least early on. I love the scene on the Sea of Galilee....

It's after a huge gathering and Christ has left the disciples in the boat while He goes off to pray and rest alone. The Sea of Galilee is known to this day for it's tempest type weather and of course while the Saviour is gone a storm kicks up. The disciples are busy trying to bail water and keep the boat afloat when they notice someone is coming towards them, walking on top of the water! It freaks them out and they lose focus on the boat as they determine that somehow a ghost is coming out to get them all. (Cue dramatic music...) Christ had to have shaken His celestial head slightly as he assures them, "It's just me, guys!" It is then that Peter, impulsive dude that he is, pipes up,"If it's really you, call me out there to you."

Now, I have wondered about that for a while... What was Pete thinking? Seriously? What kind of idiot thinks that they can do what Christ can do, just to prove a point? But then, that kind of faith is admirable too, at least on some level. He jumps out of the boat and starts walking to Christ... And then it hits him - Wait a minute... There was a storm brewing, there was wind, it was a dangerous situation and he was out of the only place of safety found for miles. He looks down at his feet that just milliseconds ago were treading upon the same water as the Son of God and he panics. Our impulsive Peter begins to sink. Duh! But that isn't the point, is it?

Thank goodness, it is not the point. Being impulsive and stepping out in faith isn't what got Peter in trouble. He did confirm it was Christ calling him out onto the water, he did have complete confidence that He would keep him afloat and not allow him to come to harm, He did all of that right. It was after he stepped out in faith that Peter tripped up. He took his eyes off of God - He lost his primary focus. He needed the slap of the water rising up his legs and his large bulk sinking into the churning sea to bring him back to the reality of Christ.

I love the way The Message has Christ answering Peter's cries for help. Jesus didn't hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, "Faint-heart, what got into you?" (Matthew 14:31 MSG) What got into you? Why would you quit focusing when it matters the most?

It is a good thing that Christ knows we will lose focus and that even when we jump out of the boat in faith He will need to save us from ourselves when we realize we cannot do it alone. He knows we are unable. Deep down we know it too, we just forget to focus on Him. We get caught up in the details, in the minutia and the tasks that need ticked off the list. We discount the ability of Christ to take it all into consideration and not leave out anything of import or we figure that He would want us to help, to do our part.

I have gotten a few slaps lately. Brought back to reality by the slap of the water rising up around me, I bow my head and beg His forgiveness as I raise my arms to be saved again. He's there. He's ready to do it all over again and He knows it won't be the last time He has to save me from myself. I know it won't be the last time either, but I am learning from each time. I am learning to keep my focus more and more, and I am learning that when I don't I am allowed to bask in the luxurious forgiveness He doles out too. I try not to tick off another failure. Instead, I try to tick off another time I relied on someone more capable, more in tune with what needs done. I accept the slap in the face that brings me back to reality and try to take just a moment to rest on His chest in relief.

Before the madness returns...