To say that there have been storms in my life over the past few weeks is a drastic understatement to say the very least. My youngest son has been hospitalized for a week now. He went through surgery last Friday and is now officially on his fourth port-o-cath. This is the third summer in a row that my son has been hospitalized due to complications from his bleeding disorder within a bleeding disorder. In addition to hemophilia he has an inhibitor. Simply put, the medicine that he really needs to take is not effective in treating bleeding episodes. The storm of hemophilia in the life of my family is not simply a few thunder clouds with a nice refreshing rain. It is an all out hurricane that seems to creep into our lives and rage at the craziest moments.
Yes, there are winds and rains all around us. They are not pretty and often cause an incredibly large host of problems. We all have them. We all know what it is like to feel like we are in an unfriendly ocean with fierce and often times catastrophic elements that continue to bombard us. The only thing we can do is find relief that we are in the boat and not thrown into the unsettling waters of life.
The text from Matthew 14:22-33 reminds me of several things. First, Jesus modeled a connection to God way before he encountered unsettling storms. “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up to the mountain by himself to pray” (Matt. 14:23 NRSV). I must be confident in my relationship with my creator before I ever need to draw on that special source of power. Communion with God is crucial in building trust and faith. How can I turn to a faith that I never nurture at a time when I really need a mature and developed awareness of God’s presence? Without developing oneness with God, I am left without the capacity to weather the storm. I am like Peter who steps out of the boat only to falter.
After Jesus saves Peter from drowning, both men get into the boat with the other disciples. After everyone is in the boat, Jesus apparently creates another miracle. He calms the storm. This is where I struggle in this pericope. The truth is that while Jesus calmed this storm, it appears that he does not calm every storm. Matter of fact I get a little angry and begin to wonder why the storm of the bleeding disorders are not made easier. I have faith in Christ. I believe that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. Why then is my family not getting a respite from the storm?
While the final portion of the text indicates that the calm brought about a sense of wonder to the disciples, I do not think that the main issue at stake in this story is the fact that Jesus calmed the storm. I think it is more important that Jesus assured Peter (and us) that the power of God is still present in the middle of chaos. The presence of tragedy and horrible acts does not mean that God is not present. In fact, God is present in the middle of the storm in ways that we cannot imagine. When Jesus first appears to the disciples they did not recognize him. In fact, “when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear” (Matt. 14:26 NRSV). It took Jesus’ own words to soothe them along with the miracle of the storm subsiding at just the right moment.
Many times, we do not have the luxury to recognize the miracle that occurs in the presence of God. We only see the storm. When the storm remains strong, we begin to question the presence of the Divine in our lives. Notice that Jesus assures the disciples (Peter included) and tells them to not be afraid. This exchange of words occurs in the middle of the storm and not on the other side. Christ is present in the storm and encourages us to remain calm. The reality of our faith is present in the times of catastrophe as well as in times of joy.