Where I Belong

mountain path

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. –Romans 14:7-8

I remember an old Three Stooges movie where they got lost somewhere in the mountains of Italy. They were pulling a crude wooden cart and needed to finish their trek to a town on the other side of the mountain. After a brief argument between them (involving some knocks on heads, pokes of eyes, and slaps of cheeks complete with all the sound effects), they come across a peasant working in his field. They ask him for directions. He looks east. He looks west. He points, stutters, looks south, and points again. Finally, scratching his head, he says, “If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here.”

Well spoken, Mr. Peasant. The trouble was, they had no other place to start from.

Just like me. Today. In my life. I want to get to Jesus. I want to discover just who it is he thinks I am. I want to find that road through the mountains that will lead me to freedom, peace, purpose, safety, and victory.

But, like poor Larry, Moe, and Curly, I’m starting out right here–stuck where I’m at confused, traveling in circles, and with my view of the ultimate destination blocked by the impassible and the immovable.

If I were talking to Mr. Peasant, I would have asked him, ‘So where do you suggest I start from?”

He probably wouldn’t have had an answer. Or, if he did, he may have doubted my ability to believe him or follow through. Weary travelers in the Three Stooges’ predicament don’t always convey a convince degree of wisdom.

How do we get there from here?

The amazing thing is, each of us has an internal compass. For those who belong to the Lord, this compass is already calibrated to point us in the right direction.

Maybe we don’t need to struggle as much searching for a place to belong because Jesus is already here. Instead of me trying to get to him, maybe he’s running to get to me.

Rather than trying to figure out where “due North” is, maybe I need to pause and rest so that Jesus can reach me. When he does, we journey on together.

What were to happen to those Stooges if, instead of asking for directions, they kept walking? With the power of the Lord within, even the smallest steps of faith count for something. Where there was no road through the mountains before, a new one gets created just by moving forward.

Instead of the path blocked by the impossible, that obstacle becomes a means of blessing. It holds surprises and helpful strategies that I wouldn’t have considered until viewing it up close.

What does all this have to do with finding identity in Christ? When we identify with someone, we associate with them. We become a part of their group or their movement. Identity gives us a sense of what is real. It gives us a sense of who we are. Identity helps us understand where we belong.

Did the Stooges belong in Italy? They certainly would’ve stood out in a crowd.

Did they belong on that road they though would take them over the mountain? Possibly.

Do I belong on this road I journey right here and now? The only way to find out is to remember who I belong to. My internal compass will naturally point me toward the One with whom I identify.

If I identify with Jesus and belong to him, then freedom, peace, purpose, safety, and victory are mine. If by consulting my internal compass I discover that I do not belong to Jesus, then it’s never too late to get off this road and choose a different one.

Jesus already knows the road he wants each of us to travel. H’s been watching and waiting for the moment when we realize where we belong. He accepts us when we choose him. Then we begin a relationship with him. Out of that relationship, he tells us who we are and how we fit into the story he’s written for each of our lives.

 

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Walking on Water

stained glass

“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. –Matthew 14:28-29

Sometimes I think we can be too hard on Peter. We remember the part of the story where he started to sink and forget about everything else that Peter did.

Peter and his friends were in a boat far out at sea during the night when they saw what looked to them like a ghost. They got scared, but Jesus called out to them, “Have no fear. It’s me.”

In a moment of courage, Peter told Jesus to command him to come to him on the water. Jesus extended the invitation. Peter got out of the boat…and started walking. The Bible says that Peter walked on the water and came toward Jesus. We can cheer for Peter at this point. He’s a champion. How many steps did he actually take? No one really knows. But regardless, he didn’t need to explore the entire Sea of Galilee. He only needed to close the distance that stretched between him and Jesus.

And he made it…almost. Sure, Peter got distracted by the strong wind, but this didn’t happen on his first step, or the second, or maybe even the third or fourth. By the time Peter started going down, he was within an arm’s reach of Jesus.

I wonder if the reprimand in verse 31 from Jesus, “you of little faith, why did you doubt,” isn’t a statement about Peter’s attempt to walk on the water, but rather about those last two or three steps he missed out on until he stood at the same place as Jesus.

Two more steps and he would have made it.

I’ve always wondered what happened after Jesus reached out to rescue Peter. Matthew doesn’t say Peter needed CPR to remove water from his lungs or that he slumped over the edge of the boat barely alive. I think Peter regained his footing on the water’s surface. A little wetter, maybe, but this time he made it. He stood at Jesus’ side.

Verse 32 says, “After they had gotten into the boat.” Maybe Peter required some assistance from Jesus to move from the water to the boat, but either way, he and Jesus made the move together. Jesus was at his side in case he took a tumble, but Matthew doesn’t mention a second sinking.

Peter’s story encourages me. His faith actually grew because of that moment of panic. How often do we feel like the words written in Psalm 69:1-2? “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.” When the waters were coming up to Peter’s neck, Jesus took hold of him and helped him.

“It is I. Have no fear,” Jesus said earlier in the story. Winds and rough waters don’t change Jesus’ level of power. His presence upholds us and keeps us from drowning. Our faith in him conquers all fears.

boat on water