On Trying to Walk on Water

I'm writing this blog post after several unsuccessful attempts to make good on a foolish boast to my son Luke that, if you hit the ocean with enough speed, you can run a couple steps on top of the water before sinking to the bottom. Intuitively we both knew it could not be done. But that did not stop a small seed of hope from being planted every time I sprinted down the sand toward the breaking waves. Maybe, just maybe, the next time it would work.

The obstacles to walking on water arise well before our feet ever get wet, however. The likelihood of failure...or even just the slightest possibility of it...usually is enough to keep us planted firmly on solid, familiar ground. And to make water-walking even more of a challenge, it's often the case that should we decide to try it, others will gather around to see whether or not we can.

In my experience as a pastor, inviting someone to open up and share their faith--not to share an explanation of the faith, but to share their own experience of it--is, for many, like asking them to try walking on top of Lake Lanier. There is hesitation, nervous laughter (oh, I don't normally do that), and a great fear of looking dumb. Vulnerability is not a popular practice in our culture or in our churches.

But two Sundays ago I saw a group of Glenn members come together and do the unpopular work of being vulnerable about their personal faith and their beliefs about how the church should respond to a sensitive matter. One by one, men and women, young and old, stood in front of their longtime friends, their peers, total strangers--all brothers and sisters in Christ--and said out loud, "Here is my heart. This is what I feel." It was difficult. It was emotional. And it was beautiful.

Brene Brown, a researcher of shame and vulnerability in Houston, says, "Our capacity for wholeness is only ever as great as our capacity to risk brokenness." I don't think anyone would argue that they wholly walked on water that afternoon. But neither did anybody completely breakdown and sink. Instead we discovered through grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, that we can risk being vulnerable, we can struggle as one body made up of many parts, and together we can stay afloat. That movement of God's love is what has forever bound male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, and it is what binds us all still, no matter what differences try to set us apart.