devozine

Spiritual Practice

WITHOUT WARNING

Karissa Whitcomb-Tavey

When you read the story in Matthew 14:22-33, how do you imagine Peter? I see him walking on the water, overcome with excitement. Then as he notices the wind and the waves, panic sets in, and he begins to sink. Fearing for his life, he calls out for help. And Jesus reaches out and takes Peter’s hand.

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink.
Matthew 14:29-30 (The Message)

During his navy days, my husband taught me a lot about ocean waves. Normal ocean waves can be large without posing a serious threat to boats. But without warning, the ocean can produce massive 30-foot-plus rogue waves that can threaten even large vessels.

We go through most of our days like boats on the ocean; the waves, our ups and downs, may give us a little bounce, a rocking motion, nothing life-threatening. But some days we are hit by a rogue wave that can send us reeling. I remember a few times when I have been overwhelmed by intense grief, panic, relief, or joy. Though the emotions were different, each one overpowered me like a sudden rogue wave.

Twice these waves came as a phone call. The first informed me that a close friend had been murdered; the second, that my mother had slipped into a coma and was brain-dead. As shock, grief, sadness, and anger converged upon me like a flood of biblical proportion, I could not think, move, or breathe. I seemed to drift in slow motion for a moment, only to crash to earth under the crushing weight of gravity—and reality. As oxygen once again flooded my lungs and I exhaled that first breath, tears began to flow, and I started the long journey of grief and healing. Twice more I was left utterly speechless at the birth of my sons. With my first son, I was overjoyed and relieved that he was alive and healthy. With the second, I was amazed by how beautiful he was. (He wasn’t really. Like all newborns, he was pinkish-blue, covered in goo, and crying; but I was in awe of the beauty God had created and helped me deliver safely into the world.)

Looking back, I can see that God was faithful in all of these moments. Though I was overwhelmed by grief, God was working a miracle, freeing my friend and my mother, from the power of death and transforming them into new creations. As brand new souls came into the world, life burst forth from nothing, simply by the power of God.

Life will send us rogue waves, but we can trust that God is with us. Whenever we are left feeling out of control—in the grief of loss, in the fear of a life-threatening diagnosis, in the excitement of a new baby, when we laugh so hard we cry, when we cry so hard we ache—God is there, holding our hand. The Master of the seas won’t always calm the waters, but God can be trusted to help us walk on the waves.

 

DIG DEEPER

Take a moment today to recognize God’s presence in your life. Remember the times you have felt overwhelmed by circumstances out of your control. With each memory, remind yourself that God was there. Look for the ways God was at work; notice when God was reaching out to you. When rogue waves hit, allow these memories to help you trust that God wants to share in your joy and your sadness—that God will pull you to the surface of the water and walk with you through the waves of life.

Karissa Whitcomb-Tavey of Hilton, New York, is a seminary student, a daycare worker, and the mom of three beautiful kids. She enjoys gardening and doing arts and crafts.

—from devozine (September/October 2019). Copyright © 2019 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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