Walking on the Water
- Wednesday, June 08, 2005
The struggles of singleness are real, and they are significant. Being single in a world designed by God for partnership brings pain. I fight the feelings of unsettledness, tempted to wonder if and when marriage will come. I cradle tiny babies in my arms, filled with wistful longings to have my own. I go solo to social events populated by couples and feel the all-too-familiar stabs of aloneness. I get weary of waking up to the furry face of Edward, my stuffed elephant. I tire of digging up dates to attend friends’ weddings. I battle the loneliness of not having a constant, committed companion.
Trudging through the trenches of singleness takes perseverance. Sometimes it’s perseverance generated by sheer obedience -- a gritted-teeth act of submission. I choose to believe that God has put me where I am at this point in time, and then I choose to live in obedience to Him. Like Noah, though, I’m not content to be yanked into line by the disciplinary hand of God. I’d rather hold that hand and walk in trust next to my Friend. I want to press on because I’m so in step with the Creator of the universe that walking a difficult road is an opportunity to sidle a little closer to Him, to hold His hand a little tighter.
God knows, however, that regardless of how much I want to walk with Him, there will be stretches of road when I’ll loosen my grip on His hand. My walk with God will be more like a stumble or a flat-on-my-face fall. In those places on the journey, I’ll tug on the leash and strain to have things my way, or I’ll just sit down and stubbornly refuse to move.
It’s in those times that I need to take a step back and remind myself of some really practical reasons why God might have routed the course this way. I’m not pretending to know the reasons why I’m still single, but I do know that even in the hardest of situations, God often gives tiny glimpses into some good things He’s doing. Backing away and forcing myself to see the positive helps me press on. Some people call it the cloud’s silver lining or the rose in the thorns. I think it’s a whole lot more. I like to call it walking on the water.
Walking on the Water
In the darkest hours of a first-century night, twelve tired men struggled against the relentless waves of the Sea of Galilee. Water splashed over the sides of their battered fishing boat and sloshed around their ankles while they strained at the oars. They hung on and hoped to outlast the storm. Just when they thought the situation couldn’t get any worse, it did. They looked up and saw it … either they were going to die in the storm, or they were going to be killed by the approaching ghost.
Give them a little credit. It had been a really long day, colored every shade of the emotional spectrum, and it wasn’t over yet. Beginning with the bad news of John the Baptist’s death, the day continued with throngs of thousands demanding attention, and it ended with an all-you-can-eat feast from a sack lunch. The disciples were undoubtedly exhausted, and then the storm hit in the middle of the lake. It’s no wonder they thought they saw a ghost. Jesus’ words, “It is I. Don’t be afraid,” awakened them from their nightmare, quelled their terror, and gave them cause to think they might make it through the storm after all.
But making it through the storm wasn’t enough for Peter. He wasn’t content to hang on to the sides of the boat, praying for the waves to die down. He didn’t want to bail like crazy to keep the boat from sinking; there were eleven other guys doing that stuff. No, not Peter. “Lord, if it’s you, … tell me to come to you on the water” (Matt. 14:28). Peter wanted to walk on the very waves that blasted against his boat.
The stormy waters became his platform to get closer to Jesus. They paved the way for an unbelievable experience, an incredible walk of faith that catapulted Peter into uncharted waters. It’s amazing to me that none of Peter’s friends hopped out of the boat to join his strides. Maybe their heads were buried too deeply between their knees, or maybe they didn’t think it would work for them, or maybe they just weren’t willing to loosen their whitened knuckles from their familiar grip on the boat.
I don’t know why they stayed put, but I do know what they missed. The blessing. The thrill. The miraculous. It took a little faith and a lot of guts for Peter to step out, but I guarantee he never regretted it. Peter took a hike on the same water his buddies were bailing out of the boat.
Singleness can be a platform, water to walk on instead of a storm to wait out. Without family responsibilities, I am free to pour my energies into local church ministries. With just me and my paycheck, I can sometimes afford to encourage friends with impulsive gifts. Without the encumbrances of someone else’s schedule, I can give extra attention to developing reading, writing, and study habits.
I don’t know what positive results of singleness you might find in your own life, but I do know they are there if you will look. Maybe your pain paves a footpath into somebody’s heart; you can understand them like you never could before. Perhaps you are better able to focus your energies on your relationship with God. Your loneliness might send you running to the arms of the ever-present Source of love. Learning to walk on the water transforms the storm into an adventure, an opportunity. It takes a little more work and definitely more faith; it’s much easier to sit in the boat until the storm blows over. Storms usually do. But while you’re sitting, you’re also missing the best parts of the trip.
By Wendy Widder, featured on "FamilyLife Today" and author of "Living Whole without a Better Half" (Kregel Publications, 2003).
The wearer of six bridesmaid dresses, Wendy Widder knows the single life. She also knows the church after spending a lifetime there in both volunteer and paid positions. She believes more than ever that the two go together. Wendy graduated from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, and is now completing a doctorate in Hebrew and Semitic studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
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