Today in church we went over the “walking on water” passage from Matthew 14. We discussed various interpretations and speculated on the purpose of including the bit about Peter (since other Gospels do not include this).
What really stuck with me, though, is the amount of fear that the disciples harbored for the sea. Think about it, most of them were fishermen–the sea was their livelihood, they’d been out in boats countless times without Jesus, before they met Him.
Were they some sort of scaredy cats??
We like to bash Peter (and Thomas etc.) for doubting — but I think this is a shame and it points to another word that we often misdefine. Bravery is not the absence of fear; rather it is the ability to face it, push through it and move beyond it. Respect also has an element of fear in it.
I remember hearing the old sailor stories: braving the waves, fearing the storms, respecting the temperamental nature of the sea. I don’t think anyone would call those guys cowards, but most certainly did not rush into water without thought or care to safety and survival.
We tend to just prattle on about “don’t be afraid” and calling those who slow down a bit to reconsider “ye of little faith” (great perspective from Michael, I think his name was), but in reality fear is good, it is healthy, it creates security and safety, as long as it’s not allowed to be paralyzing.
Without this kind of fear, I think we completely lose real bravery and respect.