When I was younger, I remember learning this little quip. You may know it as well.
"Pete and Repeat were in a boat. Pete fell off, who was left?"
"Pete and Repeat were in a boat. Pete fell off, who was left?"
Yes, it was annoying and I am sure you get the gist.
I actually have memories of saying this over and over again in the hair salon my mom used to work in. Whether I would say it to my mom, my brother, or my mom's customers, I just wanted to keep doing it, even though I had no idea why I had to keep repeating it at the time. Do you think anyone has ever wondered what happened to Pete? Maybe not, but I do know a story about a different Pete in a different boat.
January 2015, I went to my brother Dan's house. He was taking me to get a tattoo I had been planning on getting for about a year. It was his early birthday present to me. The tattoo is simple even though the meaning of it is deep. This tattoo was spurred on by a Pete that "fell off" a boat. Ok, actually this Pete did not fall off a boat, he climbed out. What is more, he climbed out in the middle of a crazy, psycho storm. Why? Because he thought he saw a ghost that actually turned out to be Jesus walking toward him and his boat on top of the waves.
24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
Matthew 14:24-27 (ESV)
Being the impulsive man that he was Pete jumps to his feet, runs to the edge of the boat, and climbs the up the hull.
28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.
Matthew 14:28-29 (ESV)
I can almost hear the other men in the boat screaming in disbelief and fear as Peter leapt from the boat toward the waves. Their screams would quickly change from fearful disbelief to surprise. They went from screaming things like, "Pete, stop! You could die!" to "Hey Pete, race Jesus! First one to touch the boat wins!"
Pete was on the water. Rather than sinking or needing to swim Peter walked toward Jesus on liquid glass. He was not walking on dry ground like the Israelites did at the Red Sea or the Jordan River but he was walking toward Jesus on the waves. Take a moment and imagine what that looked like. Did he run? Did he walk? Did he stop and stare at his feet for a brief moment? Did he test the first steps as he took them amazed that he was on top of the raging sea? I have no idea but I do know this - He went to Jesus. Yet, once he reached Jesus his faith began to sink through the water beneath his feet.
30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”
Matthew 14:30 (ESV)
Poor Pete did something foolish. Here is where I believe he took that look at his feet to see what was going on down there. When he looked back up, he noticed something else: a fierce wind howling through the waves, churning up some massive swells around him. He freaked out! And rightfully so! Suddenly, as though he were in quick sand, he begins to slip into the waves and I imagine he found his voice when he was waist deep in the frothy wake. "Lord! Save me!" This man is frantic. Yet just as quickly as Pete freaked out, Jesus responded.
31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Matthew 14:31 (ESV)
Pete made it to Jesus. Maybe Jesus was only 10 feet from the boat, maybe He was 100 feet away but either way Pete made it there! However, the trip was not over. Pete looked around too soon and he was quickly overcome by fear. All the faith he had just a moment before floated away from him and leaden doubt filled him up instead. His heart began to race. He had just walked across the water in a raging storm but now all he can see is the wind whipping around him. Suddenly the tops of his feet are wet. Now his ankles. Now his shins. Frantically he pulls up one leg but he cannot find sure footing. His knees are wet. He looks up into the face of Jesus and cries out as the water rises above his thighs to his waist.
As he cries out, Jesus responds immediately to him by taking his hand. Jesus then walks Pete to the boat. Even in doubt, Jesus does not remove Pete from the situation. Instead He has him face the fear and exercise his faith again. They did not swim back to the boat nor wait to be be picked up by the boat. The storm did not stop and allow them to get to the boat in the calm. No, Jesus simply took Pete's hand and walked with him back to the boat. Only then, when they were both aboard, did the storm stop.
32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Matthew 14:32-33 (ESV)
Pete's impulsive and faithful behavior taught me something incredible; faith requires reckless abandon but it also requires focus and humility. However, when I am in moments of doubt and fear and my faith is failing, I need simply to cry out. If I look to the Rock that is higher than I, I will find sure footing in the midst of the raging waters.
Κύριε, σῶσόν με
I wanted this tattoo to spark conversation so I chose not to have it done in English. Instead I chose Greek as it was likely recorded in.
It is on my hand because as Pete cried out in desperation to be saved he reached out his hand and Jesus took it.
It is on my left and not my right because I am right hand dominant. Being right hand dominant means if I am going to do something I will use my right because it is where my strength, certainty, and confidence lie. My left is weak. I would never reach out my left hand for help by instinct or attempt to catch myself with it. Since my right hand is my strength and the pride of strength leaves no room for God, I chose my left.
All of this is a visible reminder that I am desperately in need of God. Even though He is my salvation and death, hell, and the grave have no power over me, I constantly need His saving from fear, doubt, and myself.