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(040) Seeing Wind

“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”. – Matthew 14:22-30

I experienced my first hurricane last week. Not only a hurricane but the “dirty” side of one.

The “dirty” side of the hurricane is the eastern side. It doesn’t have a lot of rain associated with it, but it does have the most intense wind. The western side of a hurricane is where the most rain occurs, causing extensive flooding. But it is the “dirty” side, the eastern side of the hurricane, where you get the highest winds.

Matthew tells a story of wind in his Gospel about the time when Peter walked on the water with Jesus.

Jesus, having sent the boys across the Sea of Galilee ahead of him in a boat, decides to join them by walking on the water. As usual, Jesus didn’t prepare the boys for this unusual feat. He shows up in a way that wasn’t expected, and it scares them.

People walking on water was and is not commonplace. So, the disciples went with something they had at least heard of. A ghost. Jesus immediately shoots down that assumption. Telling them that what they see is him and that they should not to be afraid.

Peter, usually the first to speak up and one of the more fearless disciples, puts Jesus to the test. Jesus takes him up on that test and tells him to step out of the boat.

There have been many sermons on the topic of getting out the boat but what I want to focus on is what happens next. Looking at Jesus, Peter starts walking on the water toward him. But then Matthew says in verse 30, “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”

Did you catch that? “But when he saw the wind”. I have always been curious about this phrase. I mean, how do you see the wind? I get it. You can see the results of the wind – leaves blowing in the breeze, a flag waving, clouds moving across the sky. But actually, seeing wind? I have generally thought of it as odd biblical phrasing and moved on, translating it in my head to “wind and waves”. I mean you can see waves, right?

My experience last week provided me with a different perspective. Before last week I had no experiential context to work within to grasp Matthew’s story. Yes, I have experienced severe thunderstorms and even a tropical storm. Both being quite impressive. I have seen things blowing about and heavy rain beating down. But nothing quite like what I experienced last week.

As the hurricane made landfall, I came to realize what it means to see the wind. And, as I saw the wind, like Peter I was afraid. Seeing the wind is not something you hold in your head and assent to. To see the wind, you must experience the wind. It is experiential. The experience of seeing the wind is multisensory; using at least three of our five human senses.

First you see the results of the wind. Huge trees swaying, shattering, and limbs, large and small, breaking off. Debris flying through the air at great speed. A small piece of debris even grazed my cheek at high speed … I was lucky.

Next you feel the impact. The ground shakes as trees fall. Windows rattle. The house shakes as it is pummeled.

Then you hear the effects of the wind. The whine of the wind as it whips around the house. The crash of debris colliding with an obstacle. The splash of the waves as they crash over the sea wall.

Yes, you can see the wind. But "seeing", as Peter did, is not just having an intellectual knowledge of wind (John 3:1-21). This "seeing" is experiential. A full body, multisensory experience. It takes you immediately from your head to your heart. And, depending on the situation, has the potential to also take you rapidly from complacency to fear.

When we lose sight of Jesus. When we become distracted or disconnected from the source of life. That is when we begin to fear and, as a result, we begin to sink (John 15:5). But sometimes we need a little push to get our eyes on Jesus. Especially when we're in the midst of the storm.

It was my experience of “seeing” the wind that turned my eyes to Jesus. It was my “seeing” the wind that brought me to my knees. It was “seeing” the wind that led me into deeper prayer for my home, my neighbors, and community. Creating deeper empathy for those who have and will experience hurricane force wind in their lives. Physical, emotional, spiritual.

Keeping our eyes on Jesus we find the strength, courage, and determination we need, regardless of what we are “seeing” around us. (Philippians 4:13). It was turning my eyes toward and fixing them on Jesus that gave me the assurance and comfort I needed when I saw the wind.

Through my own “seeing” experience I not only have deeper insight into a nuance of scripture; but also an experiential compassion for Peter when he “saw the wind” and shouted out “Lord, save me!”

So, I pray simply.

Jesus, give me eyes to always see you. Amen.

"The soul learns most of its lessons in reality. In the experience of the created world that God put us in." – John Eldredge, Homecoming 2019

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