Dr. Julie Barrier Christian Blog and Commentary

Dog Paddling or Water-Walking? How to Weather Life's Storms

  • Julie Barrier

    Dr. Julie Barrier, along with her pastor-husband, Dr. Roger Barrier, have taught conferences on marriage and ministry in 35 countries. The Barriers are founders and directors of Preach It, Teach It…

  • 2012 Apr 22


Fierce, contrary winds whipped the waves of the Galilean Sea like a frothy meringue. Jesus’ rag-tag team shivered in their sandals as their tiny wooden skiff tossed about on the choppy sea. White-knuckled, Jesus’ motley crew squinted hard to see the shoreline. A ghostly apparition approached the tiny vessel. Wide-eyed, the crew saw that it was Jesus, tip-toeing over the surface of the water. Frozen by fear, the sudden appearance of their Master gave them a glimmer of hope.


Could this really be Jesus?


Peter, the off-again on-again disciple, called out to the Lord and asked Him if he could join his wave-walking. Jesus said yes, and Peter leapt out of the boat. No dunking, no drowning. His cohorts were stunned. Their rough-and-tumble buddy was doing the miraculous. But not for long. Peter, feeling his oats, decided to wave to the other disciples behind him and started gloating over floating.


Then the whole miracle started to unravel. When the crusty fisherman took his eyes off of the prize and broke His gaze on Jesus, he dipped lower and lower beneath the surface of the water. Terrified, Peter screamed for his Holy Lifeguard to pull him out of the deep. Ever faithful, Jesus took Peter’s hand and safely returned him to the boat.


You may be facing a storm today. You begin to feel a breeze or a ripple. Your company is downsizing, your mortgage is upside-down. A gust becomes a gale. Your husband walks out the door, leaving you with three kids and a broken heart. Your biopsy report comes back and it's bad -- really bad. You start to submerge. Where's Jesus? It's foggy and you're frantic.


Are you a storm chaser-borrowing future peril before the pestilence hits? Rumors of global economic meltdown, Iranian and Israeli war brewing, droughts and gas shortages loom ahead. Now you are treading water and the Christ is nowhere to be found. What happened to the "Life-Savior"? He has never moved. But we are suffocated by panic and struggle to return to the wooden skiff.


We often deride Peter for his failure to trust His Messiah. We call him impulsive, reckless and immature. But at least Peter got out of the boat. Do you? Have you learned to float? Here’s a simple swimming lesson from my childhood.


One balmy June morning in my sixth year of life, Daddy tried to teach me the fine art of "cannon-balling" off the diving board into his awaiting arms. He failed to notice my little sister Kathy. “Tiger Lil” (an apt nickname) was aggravated at being ignored and decided to swim to the deep end where we were splashing. Three-year-old Kathy had never read about Peter, but she had similar inspiration. She wanted to go see her daddy.

Kathy's idea of swimming was taking a brisk walk on the bottom of the pool. Dad shot toward her like a rocket and carefully explained to her that there is no air under the water. Mom was a land-lubber. She thought it unladylike and distasteful to get wet in public. After a heated discussion, they concurred that we needed swimming lessons. 

Mavis Wilford (we nick-named her Mavis Wafflebottom) had leathery, pruny legs the size of tree trunks. Her faded, checkered swimsuit with the pleated petal skirt had seen many summers of dog-paddling and pool-floundering. Mavis was hard-core. Nobody left her class without a respectable American Crawl.

I’m sure Mavis was Baptist because her first lesson included a swift kick to the rear and full immersion. Her little charges bobbed to the top, screaming and sputtering. But their little arms flapped and their fat feet kicked ‘til they stayed topside. Gentler swim teachers wasted time with gentle bubble-blowing and face-dipping in the shallow end. Wimps.

Strong and sturdy Mavis was not affable or patient, but she got the job done. We could dive, thrive and shoot across the pool confidently and consistently. "Keep your head up, let the water lift you, and swim to me,"  she barked. Day after day Mavis chanted her mantra for success. "Keep your head up, let the water lift you, and swim to me..." The laws of hydrology never change. Water-displacement and buoyancy will support any human, no matter how portly or clumsy. We learned to swim to Mavis. She never left our sights.


Do you feel yourself slowly submerging? I have of late. Jesus is giving me a refresher course in water-walking 101. Most of my life I've been as healthy as a horse. I was the caretaker for all the hurting people around me. I was proud of my firm faith and flotation skills. But now I'm dipping beneath the surface of the water. Severe asthma steals my air and I fear I'll drown. Daily, quietly, I hear my Jesus whisper, "Be still. I breathed life into Adam and I will be your air. Narrow your focus and reach out your hand. Stop floundering. Float on my grace and cling to my promises like a life raft."


The storm has made me stronger, and my surrender into His awaiting arms has made my moments sweeter. "Keep your head up, let His grace hold you up and come to me," He cries. You'll be "walking on water" before you know it!

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