Well, here I am, having done not only this research induction but also one week at my research desk. (One week being, in real terms, two days because I am part-time everything and full-time nothing!)
The water-walking has begun in earnest and it has been a strange week. The worst day, without doubt, was Tuesday. For the first two hours of time at my desk, I was having a complete meltdown! Despite an appearance of confidence (so I’m told), self-confidence is not actually my strongest suit and I was feeling very out of place in that room full of the desks of other research students much more intellectual than me. I fight, fairly constantly, feelings of not being able to do this, feelings that I am a fool for even thinking that I could have a go at apprenticing in this academic world. I wonder if I am out of my depth, if I have gone one challenge too far this time, if I should have stayed exclusively in the now-familiar world of the church practitioner.
The reality of walking on water had hit and, just as I had feared, I was getting wet feet and windswept, spray-bespattered hair! I really tried to pray but when your brain has gone so mushy from the panic that you can’t even string a sentence together, prayer just doesn’t cut it. It’s a good job that the Spirit prays for me with unutterable groanings because that was about all I was capable of for that first few hours!
Yet on the Sunday before in church, God had spoken so clearly to both Peter and me about this being my Jericho, a battle which belongs not to me but to the commander of the Lord’s army, a battle that will be won through my dependence and trust alone. And on Monday I had experienced God’s reminders that he will not put me to shame, that those who look to him are radiant. I knew that he was with me but I just couldn’t get the emotions to match up with the truth!
But then he reached out again to me in the college chapel service during the middle of Tuesday morning. I heard him so clearly during our worship as he invited me to let go of all control, to be drawn down deeper into him, into a place where I have no control over any of the outcomes. And I heard him again and again through the preacher, who spoke from Matthew 6 (‘do not worry’) and Matthew 14 (water-walking). God gave me a strong sense that although I do not know where I am going – something which you can probably sense that I hate with a passion! – he knows every step of the way. I will succeed in this endeavour, but not because of me, and in the end it will prove not to have been my own struggle but his battle on my behalf.
The rest of Tuesday became easier. What I mean is that, having been unable to read sentences first thing in the morning because the panic filled my mind(!), I found I could actually read paragraphs and even pages and they made sense! Wednesday too went well with a useful conversation with my supervisor and a greater sense of calm than I had known the previous day.
But Wednesday evening was the real highlight of my week! Wednesday evening was one of those experiences which ‘are too good, so great and wonderful that you laugh out loud with joyous relief’. We had a church meeting led by a visiting family who operate in a prophetic ministry. They had never met us before but they spoke so clearly into the church and into individuals’ lives, bringing much confirmation of what God has already spoken to us. They brought a fairly detailed word for me, the accuracy of which made us all laugh. It began along the lines that I have a tendency to stress too much about getting everything right and that I get too much caught up in the detail and continued with them saying that God was telling me to ‘relax’! I think they were right.
But there was also confirmation of other things that evening, things which I have sensed God saying to me about this research and about how it might play out in my life – things which are for me alone to know but which feel, even now, ‘too good, so great and wonderful’!
Image: dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
So why this post? I guess because I wanted to share the exhilaration and yet also the sheer abject terror of my latest experience of water-walking. You know, sometimes we can think that the hardest part is getting out of the boat and then we are shocked to find that it’s quite hard walking on the water too! I think there’s value in being honest about the reality of the salty seaspray stinging our faces, the wind whipping our hair across our eyes, being beaten by the waves which soak our legs, the reality that it is dark and we are, as Matthew so quietly points out, ‘far from land’ with the ‘wind against us’.
Water-walking is not a walk in the park. But, Matthew tells us that in the darkest part of the night, when the disciples are far from land and one of them is crazy enough to try water-walking…well, it is then that Jesus is on the water too. And Matthew 14:27 says that as soon as the disciples cry out in fear, ‘immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’ In the same way, a few verses later, we see that as soon as Peter begins to sink, ‘Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him’.
And that is my testimony this week. Every time I fear, every time that I sink, immediately Jesus speaks and takes my hand. This is my story this week of what is ‘too good, so great and wonderful that (I)…laugh out loud with joyous relief’.
What is your testimony of laughing out loud with joyous relief?