When there is an invite to change, there is always that question of ‘Can I walk on water?’. But with repeated experiences, we can learn confidence and literally change the way our brain works.
I wanted to say ‘hi’ and introduce myself to her, but the ‘what if’s’ were started to hold me back inside my boat. What if she rejects me, ignores me, dismisses me?
I stepped out of the boat, walked on water, said ‘Hi’ and we have been married now for 34 years.
Walking on water is a brain change moment.
We all a little boat of beliefs about how life runs. We have shaped and sculptured our brain to think a certain way, believe certain things, and act in accordance.
But the boat can become cramped. Like an old jacket that once fitted us well, it now feels constricted and tight.
There is something about change that is difficult. There is a leaving behind what was once helpful and useful for that moment and then trying something new.
I am reminded of the story in the Bible of Abraham leaving his family and friends to go to another land. It wasn’t a farewell and see you next Christmas. It was a departure from known into the complete unknown.
Your Boat Their Water
What is your boat? I’m talking about the beliefs you have held and cherished and kept you supposedly safe.
Here are a few
- If I’m in control, everything will be ok
- God loves me, but it’s conditional on doing the right thing and following the rules.
- My opinion has no worth.
- I am unlovable
- If it’s going to be then, it’s up to me
One thing I have noticed is that Spirit (Holy) doesn’t believe these things, and because of the nature of love, there is a mission of redemption going on.
It’s like watching a child who early in life decided that walking backward was the best way to get somewhere. But that’s not how it was meant to be.
So a caring parent helps them to learn to walk forwards and then life is so much easier.
Rob Bell writes this.
Spirit often exposes the assumptions we’ve been living with that we haven’t been aware of.
Spirit is on a mission to draw you to walk forwards.
Sometimes we’ve accepted rules and codes and limits without realizing it. And then Spirit blows in and exposes those assumptions, showing us how limited we’ve been, what we haven’t seen. We see what we don’t have to accept, how we can make new rules.
Spirit often reveals the ways in which we have ever so subtly submitted to the belief that this is just how it is.
Spirit refuses to accept that this is just how it is, because spirit is inherently creative. Rob Bell Everything is spiritual
But then there is the water. The unknown, the ‘what if’s’, the instability of ‘rocking the boat’, the fear of drowning in whatever is under the surface.
The call to walk on water
The story of Jesus’ friend Peter walking on water is familiar to many of us. It holds so many wonderful images that pull at the imagination.
As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.
Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them, and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.
But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come ahead.”
Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”
Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”
The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!” Matthew 14:22-33
What was it that enticed Peter to be so bold and reckless to step out of the boat? I think it was a desire to be with Jesus. That ‘withness,’ that close physical contact, that delight in being with the Christ.
There was an allurement that maybe only a few of the disciples truly smelt.
Fill my senses with your allure
Into the desert we plunge.
One of my favorite biblical passages talks about God alluring us into the desert.
“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. Hosea 2:14
Have you ever thought of God as a romantic lover? One that is powerfully and mysteriously attractive or fascinating. A tender, unconditional, overflowing love.
I look out of my boat of tightly held beliefs, fears, ‘what if’s’, and there is the allurement of a God that walks on waves.
Come Jesus says. Focus on me. Focus on the author of truth
I want to walk on water
In little ways, we can train our brain with ‘toes on the water’ experiences.
- Can I dare to believe that I have value?
- Can I trust my intuition?
- Can I let go of some of the control I have exerted over others?
It all starts by training the mind to rest or dwell on truth.
The brain will take its neural shaping from what you have given it to mould itself upon.
The brain takes its shape from what
the mind rests upon. Rick Hanson
I envision my brain, that physical structure between my ears, being like clay. Soft, pliable and plastic. I place it on top of some pattern. Perhaps the shape of a cross, or maybe an open and empty tomb, and then the brain molding itself over and around it.
The brain’s neural networks take on the very shape and nature of what it has been resting and dwelling on. It leaves its mark.
My thinking compass, a daily discipline and exercise, slowly and surely rewires the thinking.
Try it. Perhaps creating your very own thinking compass might be the first toe on the water experience.
As the wonderful title of a John Ortberg book says ‘If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat’.
Then, after many repeated daily readings of your thinking compass you might begin to notice that things have changed. You are seeing things differently. The boat is there but you have left it without even knowing it.
You’re walking on water and you might just begin to dance.
Quotes to consider
- Like faded paintings on the wall that one never sees, because they’ve always been there, so are the assumptions that govern our lives. D. Riddell
- Assumptions are what make the world go round, but they can also create hell-on-earth, until they are exposed and carefully examined. D. Riddell
- The most effective way to dissolve self-doubt over the long term is to pick a phrase that resonates with you and repeat it many times throughout the day. Lauren Sapala
- The decision to grow always involves a choice between risk and comfort. This means that to be a follower of Jesus you must renounce comfort as the ultimate value of your life. J
The key to growing any psychological resource, including compassion, is to have repeated experiences of it that get turned into lasting changes in neural structure or function. Rick Hanson. Resilient
Questions to answer
- Where is Spirit nudging you to step out of the boat?
- What is a little phrase that you set on auto-repeat for your brain to dwell on? Could it be ‘I am loved’?
- What would it be like to see, feel, taste, and become overwhelmingly intoxicated with the allurement of Christ? Would you seemingly forget about the water and start walking?
Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.
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