“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” I would like to have known Peter. He seems much like many of us. Human, faulted, weak, but also sincere, dedicated, willing to keep trying. “Salt of the earth” kind of guy, one I would see having a beer after working all day hauling in the nets, enjoying the company of his fellow workers, and able to appreciate the simple pleasures of life. And, like many of us, his faith is a work in progress.
Peter seems to be the lighting rod for moments when Jesus interacts with the disciples and realizes the long road it takes for us to follow His teaching. Time and time again Jesus teaches lessons, and time and time again, one of the disciples, usually Peter, demonstrates that there is much left to be done. Human nature trumps faith many more times than not.
Today is a classic example. Jesus is walking on the water, and Peter, not sure whether he is seeing a ghost, challenges Jesus to share the power of water-walking with him. Predictably, Peter is able to walk on water when he is relying on faith in Jesus. And just as predictably, Peter starts to sink when his human nature crowds out his faith focus. Jesus both saves him and admonishes him – “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
I am sure Jesus knew the answer to this rhetorical question. Peter doubted, we doubt, because we are human. Peter lost faith, we lose our faith focus because our human nature is so strong. We know and feel our human impulses, while our faith is outside our physical comfort zone. We may not know why we desire what we do, or why we incline to selfish- (not selfless) ness, or why our senses and emotions overtake our actions. But as Peter illustrates, this happens to all of us.
Perhaps Jesus is frustrated with Peter (and us) because we have “little faith.” More likely, He is more resigned than frustrated. This is our nature, this is the way we are programmed. It is harder to keep a faith focus than to follow our nature. It is hard to be other-directed rather than to be self-centered in this physical world we inhabit. It is hard to block the distractions of daily life and sensate impulses so we can appreciate our innate spiritual nature.
But Jesus doesn’t give up on us, and most of us don’t give up on ourselves. Jesus provides us a path to follow to help us get beyond our doubts and humanness and into a faith dimension. And we work on our faith, we nurture it, we help it grow (even though it ebbs and flows) when we do good for others, when we give thanks for our gifts and challenges, when we take prayerful moments during our day to connect with God, when we open not just our eyes but our hearts and souls to the wonder of this world that God has created.
Faith, like life, is a journey, and there are going to be false paths, wrong turns, and potholes in the road as we travel that journey. Peter shows us that by his life. For me, the key is, like Peter, to keep trying, to become more aware, to reflect on my actions and hold them to the standards that Jesus provides me, to not be discouraged by the times when my faith focus has been weaker than my humanness, but instead to remember the times when my faith has been strong.
And so my prayer today is for the grace to strengthen my faith and minimize my doubts.
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