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Fix Your Eyes

Updated: Apr 12

Sometimes I can be a little dense. I joke about my hair color (blonde) as an excuse, but I shouldn't really do that. I know that's a little demeaning. But, still, at times I am a little dense.


It's particularly bad when it is God who is trying to get through to you.


I've always had Mark 6:45-52 earmarked as an important Bible passage (parallel passages in Matthew 14:22-36 and John 6:16-21). It's Jesus walking on the water, and I love it not because I'm a real get-out-there-and-walk-out-in-faith type person, except, on second thought, maybe I kind of am.


As an introvert, I'm just not, you know, as in-your-face about it!


No, even as a teen, I would read this passage and feel that it was for me in some way. I have other favorite Scripture verses. This isn't one of those. It's just part of a handful of passages that, when I would read it, made me feel like God was directing these words right at me.


Here I am, thirty years later, and I'm still trying to learn and apply these messages. See, a little dense.


I've been going through some stressful things lately, and the passage kept coming to mind, unbidden. Stupidly, I brushed it away to focus on whatever I was thinking about at the time or even other Bible passages I was reading/working on.


I have been telling others lately to not pick what it is that you think God should work on in your life. For example, if you think you need to work on self-control, or anger management, or love toward others and then pray for the Holy Spirit to help you in these areas. I always quote C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity on this as a proof text:


Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.

This exactly matches what I have found in my life. It's a dead end to think that I can accurately diagnose my need and what it is that I need to fix in myself. In fact, I can't fix it in myself. I learned in my teens (again, when God was showing me the walking on water passages) that that was a dead-end-trap. It will shipwreck your faith or turn you into a Pharisee or worse. It's like a woman cutting her own bangs. Do not do it. Any hairstylist will tell you this.


Do not self-diagnose.


Only God knows us well enough to identify what needs to be done. Let Him do it, and just get yourself out of the way (i.e. stop obstructing).


So, when God keeps showing you a passage, Stephanie (I say to myself), you should pay attention.


He started getting obvious then. After a few days of this, I just stumbled on Mark 6 in my daily readings. I was like, "Oh yeah, I was getting around to that!"


We had a bit of a precursor to this, during our morning Bible readings. We are going through Psalms and Proverbs with the boys and hit Proverbs 4 the week before God through Mark 6 at me.


Let your eyes look straight before you, fix your gaze on what lies ahead. Mark out the path that your feet must take, and your ways will be secure. Deviate to neither right nor left; keep clear of evil. (Proverbs 4:25-27).

I wasn't totally dense. I wrote this down and then repeated it to myself for a few days. But, what I actually needed to do was turn it into a mantra, to really get through what I'm getting through. It's such good advice (well done, Solomon!), both theologically true and psychologically true, which I find all of Scripture to be. The section comes right after telling a son to keep from crooked speech and deceit. We all know that we can't control others, just ourselves (and that's a hard fight in and of itself). So, Proverbs gives the perfect advice: Watch over yourself and then when it comes to others' lies and deceit, look straight past it. You keep your eyes fixed straight ahead. You stay on the straight path. Don't deviate, don't turn, don't be influenced. Actually, the passage is better than this--it states it all in a positive, which is so much more manageable behaviorally.


Let your eyes look straight.


Fix your gaze ahead.


Mark out the path.





What is the connection with walking on the water? I was fascinated when re-reading this to see what it was that so alarmed Peter when he asked to join Jesus on the water and then faltered.


It was the wind.


I always thought it was the waves. I know the ancient world was near-phobic about the ocean and had all kinds of fears and superstitions about it. And while Lake Galilee isn't an ocean, I thought the same rules applied--storm, high waves, scary creatures, all understandable fears. But, no, it was the wind.


But when he saw the strength of the gale he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, "Save me, Lord!" (Matthew 14: 30)

Only Matthew tells us about Peter embarking on the water (see, God had to really work on my dense mind, since I had already passed up the Matthew passage...throwing Mark 6 at me to remind me that I had passed up the Matthew passage without pausing). But Mark remarks that none of the disciples had understood about the loaves and fishes, so they definitely didn't understand that they didn't need to be afraid with the wind and waves.


What didn't they understand about the loaves and fishes? That God could provide. They really didn't understand, because Mark shows us this order of events: Feeding of the 5,000, then walking on the water, then the feeding of the 4,000! Three times, strike!


I'm not the only dense one.


But back to Peter and the wind. Why be afraid of the wind? I'm not finding commentaries addressing this (come on, guys), but I see one brave blogger musing about it (20 Observations from Peter Walking on Water | StaceyTuttle (wordpress.com)). She points out that you can't even see the wind, so why was he afraid of that when there were so many other things to be afraid of!? I love her take on this--Peter, as always, is just like us and what is really getting to him is imagined dangers. What he can imagine happening with the wind and its effect on the waves is even worse than what was actually happening. He's in his own head space.


And of course he lost focus on Jesus.


Let your eyes look straight.


Fix your gaze ahead.


Mark out the path.


This is the application for me; perhaps it is for you as well. It's like we're in a simulation perfectly designed to keep our eyes off Jesus. Actually, that's probably not that far off from actual reality. Whatever the Fall of Adam and Eve set in motion in terms of sin and evil in the world, it and those who serve it seem laser-focused in getting the rest of us to lose focus on what's really real. On what really matters.


It can happen so quickly, so suddenly.


Look at Peter. He initially showed such faith. Jesus didn't make him come out on the water; Peter asked to! What boldness, what trust! Jesus, says, "Come," but he knows what is going to happen.


Isn't that just it. We are all like big toddlers who want to do something silly and dangerous, and our heavenly Parent sighs and says, "Ok.....", and lets us do the thing. Because we have to learn of our own foolishness, and then learn from it. It's unfortunate, but life is not like The Matrix. We can't just upload a computer program into our heads and know kung fu. We actually have to experientially learn things.


Did Peter not notice the wind before stepping out? Peter's compatriots throw him under the bus here. There was definitely major wind. John says that before Jesus joined them and before they saw Him walking on the water, "a strong wind was blowing and the sea grew rough" (John 6:18). Mark says the disciples were laboring at the time against a head wind. Matthew agrees, and adds that they were "battling" with that wind and were also far from the shore. Three eyewitnesses: Matthew, John, and Mark (via Peter, who is largely attributed to being Mark's major informant).


But, in all fairness to Peter, maybe the wind worsened. That happens a lot in life. You think you got this, that it's all manageable. It's always one more thing that pushes you over the edge, and often that one more thing is stupid. It's dropping a dish and breaking down and crying when you've managed to hold your grief together over the passing of a loved one. It's someone saying a rude thing to you that triggers a blow-up, when you've shown so much self-control in far more distressing circumstances.


The one more thing reveals our false assurance that we are OK. If all it takes is one more thing, then obviously you're not holding it together. And, why should we expect ourselves to, in some of these circumstances? Do we put more pressure on ourselves than God does?


Look at Peter again--God did not make him walk out on the water. He did that himself, and Jesus let him. It is understandable to be afraid when you discover that you're doing something that requires divine intervention. Like, there is no possible way that you could be doing this right now, but for God.


Is that any different from our own lives? We trivialize the miraculous in our lives. We can't see the glory behind the small things. But if you find yourself putting one foot in front of the other and forging ahead in the midst of grief, loss, heartbreak, illness, sadness, disaster, fear, do you ever stop to wonder whether you are in fact by yourself doing this??


Jesus is keeping each of us afloat. This isn't idle conjecture. We know that God gives us our very breath (wind). Psalm 18 says, "A human being, however firm he stands, is but a puff of wind" (verse 5). Despite our delusions to the contrary, we cannot keep ourselves alive.


How much more, then, through the circumstances of our lives. He cares for the lilies (Note: I wish He would pay particular attention to my spring tulips, which appear to have been all eaten by deer and groundhogs!). He "clothes" them.


He is carrying us. It is astounding to walk on water; that's miraculous, for sure. But is it any more miraculous for a grandmother to be kind and caring and giving to others when she has lost children or grandchildren? That she has not grown bitter or withdrawn and instead pours beauty into the lives of others despite tragedy and loss? Is this not miraculous, running counter to what is merely human?


Let your eyes look straight.


Fix your gaze ahead.


Mark out the path.


Some clinical studies have noted that people with severe depression may be the most realistic people out there and have a sort of "depressive realism." I've thought about this lately, when I consider all the of the troubling things in the world right now. The events in Ukraine and Gaza are terrible and tragic. The polarization in the United States is concerning. This is true, this is real.


And yet I need to let my eyes look straight ahead on the righteous path ahead on Jesus in particular. This doesn't mean that I put my head in the sand and refuse to see, hear, and help. I just can't be subsumed by it, and in particular, I can't be cowed by the wind of what might happen or might be.


Rather, I should be filled with the wind that God provides--the very breath that I take and the life-giving Spirit who lives within me.


Many thanks to the apostle Peter who, when I finally turned my attention to what his example showed, proved to be highly instructive and helpful for navigating the challenges of our modern world!


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"You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace." May God give us a sanctified imagination. It is true, He holds us together. Thank you for being in tune with the heart of God and for sharing His Word with us! And, may God help those spring tulips! That was funny! Haha!

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Really good read..I particularly identified with having a difficult few days or weeks and just one thing can topple you over the edge. As I sat in a board meeting this week after a rough few days, a board I have sat on for apx 15 years one person suggested we stop our opening prayer in favor of a moment of silence so as not to offend anyone. I burst into tears, they were erasing God in my mind. Immediately someone said I hope we aren't going to have any trouble with this. Anyway, this read was very eye opening I'll be reading again!

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