When I was a small child, a favorite phrase of mine was “I can’t”. These words came out of my mouth often as I struggled with learning how to do different things independently. I especially remember a good couple of fits throwing this phrase around as I was learning how to get into my wheelchair from the floor without someone lifting me. I said “I can’t!” so much, that, to this day, those words are practically banned between my immediate family members.
Eventually, I did conquer the challenge of getting into my wheelchair on my own. But I had my parents there, guiding me and being there for me when I got scared and discouraged. Without their encouragement and care—and without a little step stool—I truly could not get into this darn chair on my own. Now, today, I know I can do this. And I know that my mother, and my dad when he was alive, are and would always be present to keep me safe as I tried new and scary things.
I share this story because it has me thinking about our Gospel text for this coming Sunday. In this part of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus bids Peter to “come” and walk on the water to him. (Of course, this is after Peter questions whether or not the person standing on that sea during a storm is actually Jesus!) In that moment, Peter trusts in Jesus’ power and protection to keep him from sinking. But, seeing a challenge and scary conditions (the wind), Peter becomes terrified and begins to sink. Perhaps Peter’s “I can’t” moment is exactly what happens here. Alone, he cannot walk on the water—by his own will he cannot do it. But it is Jesus who rescues him and guides him to safety when he is scared and uncertain. God in Jesus Christ is present for us in the same way, too. Jesus didn’t take Peter’s hand and help him in that way. Rather, he guided and saved Peter when he needed saving.
From what we know of Peter’s life and ministry, he became the “Rock” of the church. He went on to do great things, even though he faltered at times, and came to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with many people. Much like a parent might encourage, guide, save, and challenge a child; Jesus did the same for Peter, and does so for us. In our “I can’t” moments, may we remember the faith and trust of Jesus and Peter, so that we can remember we aren’t on our own when we are faced with life’s challenges.