My oldest son turns 3 today! When he was born I shared a series of reflections on the significance of his name, Peter. I’m reposting this one in honor of his birthday and as my continued prayer for Peter who at age 3 already has the strong personality of Simon Peter shining through. Happy Birthday Peter!
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me! Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matt 14:28-31)
My Dear Peter Bjorn,
You will always live your life pulled in two directions, two worlds, two realities. On the one hand, you will be invited to live in the reality of the Kingdom of God — reality defined by the Creator who can bend the rules at will. On the other hand, you have been born into the 21st century American culture. You will be bombarded throughout your life with the values, beliefs, goals and purposes of the so-called “American Way”, and tempted to pursue the so-called American Dream.
Beware, Peter Bjorn. The American Way is is paved with empty idols, false promises, an obsession with self and a terrible lack of adventure. As a culture, we are obsessed with safety, conformity to the status quo, and are quite risk-averse. Oh, and we settle for far less than the kind of abundant life that Jesus offers to us (John 10:10).
Your daddy was in college, preparing to chase the American Dream, get a practical degree so he could get a good-paying job to buy the house with the picket fence, and raise a family trying to “keep up with the Jones’s.” But God had different plans. I encountered the God who is anything but safe and tame. I found my life swept up into a far more exciting story than the life promised by the American Dream.
Your daddy became a real disciple of Jesus during college at Bethel. Soon the priorities and desires of my life changed radically. I no longer found the American Dream that compelling. I saw many people working around the clock, accumulating more stuff, living in the big houses, driving the nice cars, living in the suburbs — and many of them still feeling unhappy and unfulfilled.
Meanwhile, I began to make choices that seems odd and impractical to the watching world. I changed my major to study the Bible not knowing how I would earn a living. I started investing my time in serving and helping people (e.g.,working with inner city teens, youth ministry, etc.). I soon found myself preparing for vocational ministry.
What does any of this have to do with Simon Peter walking on water? Well, my dear Peter Bjorn, your dad and mom don’t want you to pursue a safe life chasing after stuff and just getting by. We want you to experience “life on the divine edge of God’s activity” (Erwin McManus). We want you experience the same wild and unpredictable God we read about in Scripture. We want you to come to know personally the God who parts the Red Sea, calms storms miraculously, appears out of no where from a burning bush, heals the lame, multiplies loaves, walks on water and raises the dead!
The story of Peter walking on water is one of your daddy’s favorites. It illustrates so beautifully the truth that if you want to walk on water and experience the miraculous provision of God, you have to get out of the safety of the boat first. Many, many, many people will always remain inside the boat where it’s warmer, dryer, safer and more comfortable. Very few people will have the bold faith to step up onto the ledge and take that step onto the water. Sadly, people in the church are no better than those outside on this point.
Peter Bjorn, your daddy has always desired to be a man like Peter who was willing to do anything if Jesus asked him to — especially things that the rest of the world calls “crazy”. That’s why I ended up in ministry, why we started the Revolution Teen Ministry in Mound before you were born, and why we have been part of planting MainStreet Covenant Church in Mound when you were born.
Following Jesus is not the easy way. It’s the hard way through the narrow gate which very few people find (Matt 7). It’s the way of denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus daily. The Bible says that those who choose to follow Jesus’ way will be considered fools by the world’s standards.
My son, your mom and dad pray that you will grow up to be a risk-taker for Jesus, with faith bold enough to step outside the boat and, in doing so, experience the miraculous work of God in your life. May you walk on water like Simon Peter! And, notice, that failure will be part of the process — just keep letting Jesus pull you back up.