“When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them, ‘Take courage. I AM. Do not be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it is you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat. . .”
Most of us have had the fear of failure ingrained in us. We view failure as something to be avoided at all costs.
But our fears are based on a limited truth. There are situations in life where failure means disaster. As the saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, then skydiving is not for you.”
But there are other times where we must learn to embrace failure as the inevitable process of growing. Every musician knows that, in order to master their instrument, they must be willing to fail, and to repeatedly play wrong notes in order to learn. Any basketball player knows that they will miss many more shots than they make before they begin to refine their shot.
There is, of course, a way to avoid failure. You will never hit a wrong note, you will never strike out – if you never pick up an instrument, if you never step up to the plate and swing.
When Jesus came to his disciples walking on the water, only one of them failed. Peter made the offer that he, too, would walk on the water if it was truly Jesus calling him.
It was. And he invited him to come.
You know what happens next: Peter begins to walk on the water toward Jesus, but then he diverts his attention to the power of the storm and height of the waves, and begins to sink.
How does Jesus respond to his doubt? He grabs his hand and lifts him back up out of the water. Peter had no reason to doubt, but when he failed, Jesus was there for him.
In 1899, Teddy Roosevelt, in a speech to the Hamilton Club in Chicago, said:
It is not the critic who counts, not the person who points out where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the devotions, and spends himself or herself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and at the worst, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his or her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.
Peter may have failed. But at least he was the only one willing to climb out of the boat and try.
(copyright 2011 by Marty Kaarre)