Staying on the Boat
I believe there are times in our lives where God tries real hard to get us to completely trust in him. We get comfortable where we are and that comfort can sometimes lead us to rely on ourselves or in the environment in which we reside. We make no effort to change because, we reason, change could be worse than where we currently are.
When we start relying on ourselves or our environment, we sometimes forget about the faith God calls us to have in Him. God takes notice and sends us little reminders. Very often we don’t take the hint.
Slowly those little reminders start irritating us, but we still refuse to budge. It is then, I believe, that God places people, events, problems, and a host of other challenges in our paths. You might recognize them by the complaints you start making about their existence.
Recently I was noticing some things about my job. Basically, I hated getting up every morning to go to it. I had been at the same company for twenty-one years. I knew the ins and outs of the job. I knew who to go to when I had a problem and I had developed a trust with a large customer base. I liked my coworkers and they liked me.
Little things started bothering me. I would reason them away and if that didn’t work, I would plot my attitude toward my vacations. I would say to myself, “Hold on, there’s only three more weeks and you will be on vacation.”
Then bigger issues would come up. To me, there almost seemed to be an appearance that this company, which I had worked so long for, might be tiring of my presence. Unreasonable expectations, supervisors offering very little help, and a general turnover in the company, were some of those “challenges” that popped up.
Then one day I decided enough was enough. The forces were arguing inside me. “You’ve got a pretty good job,” “What about all that vacation time and don’t forget about the 401k,” and “You’re getting a little too old to start something new,” were some of the arguments I waged in my head.
Finally I had enough and I decided to look for another job. Outside of family members and a few friends, very few people knew of my efforts. Today, seeking a new job is quite different than when I looked for a job twenty-one years earlier. I took the steps to learn the process and eventually I found a job that was a great fit.
I turned in my resignation, and to say the least, everyone was shocked. My judgments that they were trying to push me out were completely wrong, but there were some other legitimate reasons that would easily justify my departure.
Still the owners of the company were not very happy with my decision to leave. One of them called me into his office and we talked. He was very frank about his disappointment in my decision. After hearing my reasons for leaving and expressing his disappointment in my choices for leaving, he came up with a very tempting offer to keep me from leaving. I asked him if I could think about it overnight. He said that would be fine and he would wait to hear from me in the morning.
I got very little sleep that night. I tossed and turned. Then out of nowhere came a Bible story into my mind. When I shared my decision with him the following morning, I started by telling him how I went through most of my days. I knew his life, like mine, placed a real strong emphasis on family and spiritual values. I was stunned by the silence on the other end of the phone. I concluded, before I told him my answer to his offer, with the Bible story that came to me the night before.
After he heard my Bible story, and my answer, he told me that I needed to share it with others. It was one of the first times in my life that I felt like God really sent someone to me to tell me that it was okay to tell my story to others. The Bible story will be the one I tell in a few moments.
It may have surprised some that this preacher’s son was actually pretty smart. It would be easy for some people to call him “dumb,” especially since his father was a professor at the Columbia Theological Seminary. You see, he was ten years old before he even started to read. He later learned that his “dumbness” wasn’t a mental trait, but the fact that he had dyslexia.
Most Presidents, both the good and bad ones, have one very distinguishable trait in common. Most, if not all, are real fighters. They overcome great odds or they struggle with something in their lives. It could be a weakness, a handicap, poverty, parental expectations, or a host of other hurdles.
This future President decided that he was going overcome his dyslexia. He taught himself the Graham shorthand system to help him compensate for his shortcoming. He would spend extra time with his father studying. He would be enrolled in classes at a small Augusta, Georgia school.
The young lad improved so much in his studies. He would even be accepted to Davidson College in North Carolina. He got really sick and would have to drop out of that school, though.
The young student would recover and he transferred to Princeton. He would still be a freshman. He would become a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. He was active in the Whig literary and the debating society. He would write for the Nassau Literary Review. He organized the Liberal Debating Society and would even coach the Whig-Clio Debate Panel.
After he graduated Princeton, he would attend the University of Virginia’s Law School for a year. Here he would be president of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society. He would also be a member of the Virginia Glee Club.
Later he would enter Johns Hopkins University to study history, political science and the German language. He would complete his doctoral dissertation, Congressional Government: A Study in American Politics, three years later and received a Ph.D. To date, he is the only President with a Ph.D.
It had been a very long day for this group of Bible characters. One of them wanted to stay behind to take a little break. He told the others that he would catch up with them later and to go on ahead of him. Being tired themselves, they decided the best thing to do was to take a boat to reach their next location. So off they went.
Traveling on a boat was probably one of their favorite ways to get around. Most of them had been around boats most of their lives. They were comfortable in the boats. After their long, trying journey, there must have been a sense of peace about being on the water, even though the water was a little rough that day.
As they got some distance off shore, one of them noticed something strange in the distance. At first he might have thought that it was another ship or maybe it was just the sun setting. But the glow seemed to be heading straight toward them. As it got closer and closer they all started getting a little scared. It was getting very near the boat and a sense of panic was starting to overcome them.
The twelve disciples trembled as the glow approached them. Jesus, who was the unrecognized glow, calmed them down by saying, “Hey guys, it’s just me.” Peter was so overjoyed that it was Jesus that he jumped up on the edge of the boat and he asked Jesus if it would be okay if he hopped on the water and walked on it too, just like Jesus was doing.
Peter was doing fine, until something spooked him. Who knows what it was. Maybe it was a wave. Maybe he just logically thought, “Wait, this isn’t humanly possible.” Or maybe, like many of the sermons I’ve heard on this story, he just took his eyes off Jesus. Whatever the reason, Peter started to sink into the water.
Jesus rebukes Peter for losing his faith. Then Jesus rescues Peter from the water. The Bible never tells us how Peter got back into the boat. We know he got back because he survives and shows up in other Bible stories. Did he swim back? Did Jesus carry him back? Did he walk back on the water? I hope he walked back.
Almost all the sermons I have ever heard on this story relate to the fact of losing faith or taking our eyes off Jesus. But the simple fact of the matter is that there were eleven other disciples on that boat and only Peter was willing to let his faith be tested.
You see the boat was comfortable. The boat was safe. Failure or embarrassment was not an option as long as you stayed on the boat.
Our future President would be a lecturer at Cornell University, where he joined the Irving Literary Society. He would teach Greek and Roman history at Bryn Mawr College. He turned down offers to teach at both the University of Michigan and the University of Indiana. He would then go to Wesleyan University to teach. Here he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, coach the football team, and founded the debate team. That debate team still bears his name.
Next, he was elected by the Princeton University board to the Chair of Jurisprudence and Political Economy. He continued his practice of teaching a six week course in administration at Johns Hopkins University. For awhile, he was a faculty member of the short-lived coordinate college, Evelyn College for Women. He became the first lecturer of Constitutional Law at New York Law School.
Writing also became part of his life. In his first political work, Congressional Government, he advocated a parliamentary system of government. His second publication was a textbook entitled The State, which was widely used by colleges throughout the country. His next book was entitled Division and Reunion. He then wrote a five-volume work entitled History of the American People. His last scholarly work was Constitutional Government of the United States. He would also write for Political Science Quarterly and Harper’s.
He was also offered the Presidencies of the University of Illinois and the University of Virginia, which he turned down. The Princeton University trustees would promote him to President of Princeton University. He proudly accepted that post.
Princeton, at the time, was a poorly run institution. Their endowments where pretty low, too. He had some very bold, expensive goals and changes to the university that would need funding. His changes and vision would help Princeton become a great university again. He was constantly being challenged, as is often the case where change is involved.
On October 20, 1910, Woodrow Wilson submitted his letter of resignation to Princeton University. He could have stayed and continue his fight to reform Princeton even more. His clout and comfort level would have made staying on the boat a valid argument.
But Woodrow Wilson stepped off the boat and entered the political world. He would win the election to be Governor of New Jersey. This would eventually lead him to be elected President of the United States.
I relayed to the owner of the company, who offered me another great opportunity, the boat the disciples were on was, in a modern sense, his company. It was safe. It was secure. I then told him that I didn’t want to be one of the eleven.
I believe my former job had offered me so many great opportunities. I also believe the struggles I was experiencing were very real and very valid. But I also believe God placed those struggles on my path because I was not where He wanted me to be. You see, I was looking to my job as my source of security. God doesn’t like it when He’s not the source of our security.
Sometimes it’s easy to get comfortable with our life. Comfort, in itself, isn’t necessarily bad, but when you have to start reasoning why you are staying in a certain station in life, comfort may not be the best excuse to use. Imagine if Professor Wilson had never left Princeton. There would have never been a President Wilson to guide us through World War I. Some historians consider President Wilson to be one of the best Presidents we have had.
So I have decided to step out of the boat in an act of faith. A very different opportunity sits in front of me. I will have to learn a whole bunch of new stuff. I will have to build a whole new list of professional relationships. So, I have started to walk on the waters. I know not how strong my faith may be in those weak moments. But I do it all knowing that Jesus’ hand is ready to pull me out of the water if I shall be weak. And in those moments, I hope I get back on the water and walk on it again.
Prayer: Dear Mighty Father, When struggles try my very soul, it is extremely hard to look upon them as blessings, but sometimes that is exactly what they are. Those struggles cause me to react. It is through those reactions I learn to trust completely in You. Please let me react to my struggles in a way that leads in Your direction. Please help me to keep my feet walking on the water. Amen.