Friday Devotion

This is the devotion aired on KCNI Friday, December 4, 2020. Thanks to KCNI for airing weekday morning devotions from pastors of the Custer County Ministerial Association.

If our lives had soundtracks, what songs would be on them? Good morning, I’m Pastor Matt Fowler of Broken Bow United Methodist Church. This week, I’m diving into some top country songs of the last few years to explore the intersections of faith and life.

I’m captivated by the complexity of today’s song, “Oceans” by Lady A, released in 2019. We could hear it simply as a song of unrequited love: she wants to swim in the ocean of her beloved, but he won’t let her in, it won’t work out. She pleads. She’s committed to him. She’s steadfast. She proclaims in the chorus that, even though “the waves keep crashin’ in […] I’m not afraid to drown.”

Yet, it’s not clear to me that she’s really sure that she’s not afraid of the waves. In fact, the bridge near the end of the song suggests the opposite. There, she sings, “But they come back again,” and then trails off repeating, “the waves, the waves, the waves.” If she’s really not afraid of the waves, why does she trail off beneath these lyrics?

Lady A’s song doesn’t clear up this mystery, but it has inspired me to think about the challenges of our lives – which we might call waves – and a story of Jesus and his disciples (Mt 14:23-31). The disciples were crossing the lake without Jesus. They struggled against a strong wind, and were battered by the waves. Early in the morning, Jesus came walking across these turbulent, chaotic waters toward his disciples in the boat. They were afraid he was a ghost, but he called out to them, “It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

At this point, Peter could have been singing with Lady A: “I’m not afraid of the waves. Call me out. Call me to you.” And, unlike the song’s beloved, Jesus the beloved calls Peter out, and he walks on the water toward Jesus. He’s in the song’s ocean.

But, as Lady A sang, “The waves, the waves, the waves…” Indeed, Peter was fine until he saw the strong wind and waves. Then he was afraid, regardless of what he’s said or sung before. And at that moment, he began to sink and shouted for Jesus to save him. Of course, Jesus reached out and pulled him up upon the water, saying, “Why did you begin to have doubts?” (v. 31b). Then they got into the boat and the waves settled down.

So, here’s the thing about life and Jesus. Life has waves. Presently, we’re experiencing the turbulence of a pandemic. Every nurse I talk to is concerned. Life seems more fragile and uncertain than it did a year ago. And perhaps that would be enough, but these are far from our only waves. We each have our own struggles, pains, and griefs rocking us and threatening to push us under. And now we can sing, “The waves, the waves, the waves…”

Yes, life has waves, but in Jesus, we see God’s presence fully with us in the waves. As much as we might want him to, Jesus doesn’t come on the scene and transform everything all at once, at least not often. Rather, but perhaps more importantly, Jesus walks amidst the waves – it’s just that he truly is not afraid of the waves. And he calls us to live, even amidst the waves, as those with hope borne upon his presence.

Let’s pray: Jesus, be with us in the waves. Give us hope, courage, and love that cast out fear so we can walk with you. May it be so.

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