His rain soaked hair and clothing, flailing in the wind, conveyed a haunting appearance as he slowly walked through the night. A feeling of phantom like mystery seemed to hang heavily in the air as the tempest howled with great passion; as if even the gale itself had known that it must stop their progress.
Only hours before, his companions departed, leaving him on the quiet shore as they set course for the opposite side of the sea as directed. They felt the stillness in the air as they turned their backs to the final rays of sunlight and began rowing their craft toward the darkened, distant coast. How many times had they done this very thing? Yet this time, as almost by premonition, a perception of some distant threat seemed to infiltrate their souls in the same way a whisper would enter the ear, very softly and with the supposition that it was not heard by anyone else.
They had only left the sandy bank for no more than a few short minutes before the somber sky relinquished its hold on the dying embers of the sunken sun. Flashes of lightning shattered the night with brilliant patterns of jagged spears of splendor. Feeling the hot, sticky air condensing on their skin and mixing with their sweat soaked clothes, they all rowed as one into the oncoming calamity of nature.
The first blast of air came upon them, announcing its presence by robbing them of their next breath. Great drops began to fall from the blackened, eerie heavens that left stinging sensations upon their exposed arms and legs. The once still, tranquil sea that had gently caressed their vessel turned into a bloodthirsty dragon intent on tossing them helplessly from his back with every furious swell and rush of water. How far had they traveled? All time seemed to be frozen as they fought fatigue and continued on the course set by their master.
Standing upon the high, rocky shoreline he became a witness of his companions’ valiant efforts to follow his directions. They persisted forward into the very jaws of the storm with only one consideration, “we must go to the other side.” From his vantage point he could see their journey was not yet even half accomplished. Great pride and feelings of admiration swelled up within his heart for the dedication and determination of his friends. He would go to them.
The small group of worn and nearly exhausted men, bending their backs and pulling oars, fought onward; feeling as if at any moment their burning muscles would give in to the terrible forces intent on ending their predetermined destiny. They had been laboring for nearly eight hours and had only covered three miles of their six mile course on this now deadly body of water. All at once the atmosphere sparkled with a violent, yet beautiful fire bolt, illuminating on the water a gray, ghastly figure that seemed to drift upon the crashing swells. Great fear entered the thoughts of each man as they all began to feel the water soaked hairs on their entire bodies suddenly tingle with panic. Static electricity filled the air, then without warning another explosion of radiance erased the shadows and confirmed the escalating despair in each heart, the mirage was moving closer toward them, on a course that would within minutes overtake their now abandoned mission. All dreadful suspicions were established when one of the group yelled out above the roaring of the storm, “It’s a ghost!!!”
As he drew nearer it became clear the boat was now at the cruel mercy of the terrible forces that had arisen. Overcome by panic and fear each man lost sight of their direction allowing the deluge and the waves to violently toss the small ship in the same way a hurricane would carry a fallen leaf. As he came close enough to be heard over the wailing wind, he called out to the crew, “Do not be afraid! It is I!!!”
What!! Could this be so?? Could this be the one they left several hours ago on the far embankment? And yet if it was: how could it be that he was walking to them on the waters?? As if some remnant of courage and strength was stirred up by a force deep within his being, the leader of the small group in the vessel presented the challenge to the now obscure figure on the water, “If it is you, command that I too should walk upon the sea and come to you!” Then from the dark and turbulent deep came the thunderous command, “Come!” which when spoken released a brilliant flash of light, electrifying the air and illuminating the blackness for what seemed like minutes.
With this word from their master a sense of strength and hope saturated the one now standing within the weakened and water filled ship. Stepping to the edge of the boat, the temper of nature seemed to become more violent. Waves wickedly slapped against his face as great, gust driven droplets pelted his eyes and battered his back, attempting to hurl him headlong into the deep foaming fathoms below: yet the only sense that he experienced was the calming, intense resounding of the word, “Come.” Without reservation the man stepped fearlessly into the swirling water, fixed upon the gracious, elated eyes of the master; intently following the course to his goal.
As the brightness from the lightning began to be absorbed into the sullen, angry clouds, his eye contact, his focus was cut off. Arms extended, thrashing and groping like a blind man, he began to reach for some familiarity of substance that could steady his now faltering steps. The storm seemed to intensify as the rain pounded upon him more heavily. His eyes, wildly searching for an escape, began to burn as the waves grew even higher, all of their wrath thrown against him. Looking back he could see the outline of his craft recklessly tossed by the tide eight feet away. Looking ahead he could scarcely see his commander for the turbulence of the tempest; and loosing hope, due to what seemed like a hopeless undertaking, he began to sink slowly into the vicious, pounding seas as he screamed out into the night, “Master, save me!”
Reaching for his companion and catching him by his hand, the master drew him up and out of the water. Clinging to him like a kitten just rescued from a raging river, and looking into his joyous, smiling face, he heard the master’s encouraging voice quietly say, “Your faith, as little as it was, enabled you to come this far. Why did you begin to doubt?” Together they walked into the ship and immediately upon entering, the storm was miraculously stilled, and though only half way to their destination were instantly on the Eastern side of the sea where the sparkling sun was spreading the soft, serene sights and sounds of a fresh new day.
Much time has passed since that day when I steadfastly stepped into that water and felt it solidify around my feet; that day He picked me up and gently taught me about the potential of believing. I have spent the rest of my life seeing, experiencing, and living His dream with Him. So many things He has told me; so many sad and joyful memories wash over my mind, not unlike that night our boat was flooded and we were all totally immersed, not only in the water of the sea, but also in the goodness, power, and love of the Master.
Today, some thirty four years later, I recall when He told me this day would come. Today I was carried to this place and strapped to this “tree.” Today this cross of mine shall bear me beyond that gulf and into my destination where the brightness of the Son illuminates the new day. Again, I strain my ears to hear the glorious words of my Lord confidently calling to me, “Come!”
All rights reserved