But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”- Matthew 14:22-27
Sometimes it seems like we don’t have the adequate resources to address the immensity of the needs around us.
Igor, the boy who was attacked by the dog, is illiterate. This is the first time I met a young teenager in the streets who could not even write his name. He has never been to school. This young man was so severely neglected as a child that his personal development was affected. Legally Igor is an adult and society would expect him to behave as one. However, mentally and emotionally, Igor does not have any of the tools that would help him get even the lowest paying job in São Paulo.
Rose is fifteen. She is intelligent and full of energy. Recently, she told us that she was pregnant. It wasn’t necessary because we noticed the growth of her stomach. When we asked her if she had any plans for her child, she just shrugged her shoulders and continued sniffing her paint thinner. I saw her last Monday and the growth of her stomach was gone. She miscarried her child. When we asked her about it, she wasn’t able to say anything intelligible about what had happened. She was too high on drugs.
These are just two examples and I could fill this post with examples of children and teens who appear to be so lost that it is easy to feel a sense of hopelessness. These children are born into a chaotic environment and it seems like they don’t believe there is anything better out there. Maybe they don’t have the time and energy because they just try to keep afloat in this sea of chaos.
Last Sunday, we heard the above gospel passage about Jesus walking on water. It is the first time I saw how relevant this text is to our present reality in the streets. The good news is that Jesus was not consumed by the sea of chaos. He walked on water.
At first, the disciples thought that it was a ghost or an illusion. They were obviously afraid. Ghosts are frightening because they challenge our sense of reality and not in a good way. Illusions are worse. They create an image of something that is not there in reality.
A few years ago, one of the teenagers accused our team leader of preaching illusions to the homeless. He said that our words were nothing but empty promises. These were strong words. In a sense, he was right. They are empty words if we don’t make it our reality. Faith is not make-believe, but it is an actual step towards a new understanding of reality. Of all the disciples, only Peter experienced this new reality. He was the only one who had faith while the rest just believed. Of course, he almost drowned as well. This is the risk. Faith is a risk. The gospel only becomes real for those who are willing to take the risk. It is a risk to tell these children and teenagers that it is possible for them to have a full and complete life in this world. For many, it is like a frightening ghost that challenges everything they have known. For some, it is illusion that would only disappoint. It takes faith to step out on the water. It does not mean that we pretend that we are not doing something which is normally not done.
I understand faith as interpreting my reality through the Lord who walks on water. I don’t have to pretend that the sea of chaos is not dangerous and unwelcoming, but it does not determine what we can or cannot do in this reality. Whenever I talk the teenagers of the hope of the gospel, I am also fully aware that maybe everything could go wrong for them or me despite having faith. It is a risk to believe in the promise of abundant life. However, we need to walk on water because Jesus is waiting there. He is bringing a new perspective to Life and we will only understand this new perspective if we walk out to where He is standing. This miracle is perhaps one of the greatest miracles in the gospels. It changes how we understand Jesus working in our reality. He is not hindered the circumstances in which we find ourselves. He transcends them. We know that we are surrounded by the sea of chaos but we also know that we are here because the One who walks on water is able to bring order into this chaotic environment.