A Photograph and a Poem

I was weary and discouraged. A couple of very difficult appointments with clients at the pregnancy center where I work had left me questioning my abilities and doubting my adequacy. I felt like a failure. I wanted to quit.

But I had a Bible study to prepare for that evening. Flipping through the pages of my workbook, I spotted the photograph. Thoughtful Geraldine had excitedly given it to me before the start of our study the previous week. It was a picture of a sunset over the Sea of Galilee in Israel, with a short poem printed below. She knew I had traveled to the Holy Land and thought of me when she saw it. I didn’t have time to look closely at it just then, so I tucked it between the pages of my workbook and promptly forgot about it.

Until now.

I picked up the photograph and slipped on my reading glasses to examine it more carefully. The sun, setting behind the Galilean hills, was in the shape of a Star of David.

This was the text of the simple poem that followed:

Star of David on Galilee
Jesus walked on this very sea
He called to Peter, step out and believe
Our eyes on Him and we receive.
He calls us now through Holy Spirit
For those with hearts and ears to hear it.
God Almighty, Creator of all
No prayer too big, no prayer too small.
So step out of your boat, you're not alone
Your miracle awaits, sent from the throne.*

Geraldine didn’t know that the story of Peter walking on the water with Jesus was special to me. But God knew. He had used this very story to lead me to accept the very position I had taken at work. Geraldine had no idea that a week later I would need confirmation that the Lord was still with me in the midst of a storm. But God knew.

It was as if He had sent this photograph into the future for me to find at the exact moment I needed it.

He knew I would recognize His voice speaking through this little poem, reminding me that HE was the One who called me out upon the water, that great unknown where feet may fail. (He had also used these very lyrics, from the song “Oceans,” to confirm His call when I took the job.) He knew I would see Him in this beautiful photograph of the very waters upon which Peter walked, and the shores upon which I had stood.

The truth is, I had actually begun to enjoy being out on the water with Jesus, preferring my exhilarating adventures with Him to the safe confines of the boat. Until like Peter, I took my eyes off of Him and placed them on myself–my inabilities, my inadequacies–and on the cresting waves around me. Next thing you know I’m panicking, thrashing, and coughing up sea water.

He came for me that morning in a poem and a photograph, and pulled me close, dripping and sputtering. He gently informed me that it was never about me. He pointed out that the storm didn’t actually stop until He and Peter returned to the boat.** And He patiently instructed me that He alone will determine when our walk on the water is over and it’s time to step back into the boat.

Who is this, that even the winds and waves obey Him? Who exists outside of time, sees our future needs and makes preparation for them? Who defies the laws of nature, walks on water and invites us to do the same? Who comes to our merciful rescue when we forget that apart from Him we can do nothing?

Jesus.

Amazing Jesus.


For Reflection: Where are you in your journey with Jesus? In the boat? Out on the water? Going under? Wherever you find yourself today, He is there too. He knows exactly what you need. Just “step out and believe.”

Watch this video of “Oceans,” filmed on the Sea of Galilee, and be encouraged!

*Photo and poem by Anthony R. Torres, Hand of God Photography.

**See Matthew 14:22-33 for the account of Peter walking on the water.

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Earthen Vessels

earthen-vesselThis fall I have the opportunity to teach, for the third time, a class at our church called “Foundations:  Christian Living.”  I’ve known and walked with the Lord for over three decades.  I should have this Christian Life thing down by now, shouldn’t I?

Well, turns out I don’t.

It’s easy to become discouraged when the gap between Who-I-am and Who-I-am-called-to-be appears to widen instead of narrow.  Being confronted with one’s weaknesses and failures at this stage in the game can certainly intensify feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy.  The enemy of my soul knows and loves to exploit this.

Who are YOU to teach a class on the Christian life?  Look at you!  All this time, and you still don’t have it together.  What kind of example are you to these young believers?

These defeating thoughts kept running through my mind last week as the start date of the class approached.  I decided to go for a walk in an effort to clear my head and pray.  So I headed down the hill that leads away from our house, pouring out my heart, confessing my sin, and acknowledging my fears and feelings of inadequacy to the Lord.  As I turned onto a side street, the following phrase entered my mind, clear and succinct, the way I’ve come to recognize God’s voice when He speaks:

We have this treasure in earthen vessels.

I caught my breath.  Tears sprang to my eyes.  I repeated this verse, which is from 2 Corinthians 4:7, over and over as I continued down the dirt road, meditating on the meaning of His words.

We have this treasure…  Jesus… the Pearl of Great Price… the One Thing that Matters… I have Him!

…in earthen vessels…  that’s me all right… weak… flawed… inadequate… unworthy.

See?  Just look at you!  That ‘other’ voice taunted again.  Only now I knew how to respond.

“If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that.” (2 Corinthians 4:7, The Message)

(That last part makes me laugh.)

What if our weaknesses actually create a better backdrop to highlight His power?  The apostle Paul certainly came to accept this as true in his life and ministry:

“Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9b, NAS)

Rather than disqualify us for ministry, what if our flaws even help to enhance our effectiveness?  After all, they keep us humble, honest, and dependent on Him.  Isn’t that the best and safest place to be?

We are earthen vessels, ordinary and imperfect.  God’s only condition for service is that a vessel be clean.  Then He delights to fill and use it to accomplish His purposes.*

He is the Treasure, extraordinary and perfect.  May our weaknesses draw attention to HIS greatness, and our imperfections serve to showcase HIS glory.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves…” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NAS)

*See 2 Timothy 2:21.

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