Certain sports figures have forever endeared themselves to us. One is British ski jumper, Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards, who competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary and whose lunacy captured our hearts.
Millions of viewers watched with their hearts in their mouths as Eddie careened down the 90-meter hill and windmilled into space. I’m told that Eddie’s birthday, Dec. 5, is still celebrated in casualty departments around the world.
Eddie has his very own entry in the Oxford Book of Words and Phrases: “Pulling an Eddie” is defined as “doing something extremely badly, and doing it in the most embarrassing manner possible.”
Nevertheless, Eddie went for it — that’s the important thing — and actually got better, competing in later years with greater ability, which leads me to the thought that “doing extremely badly” is the one of the ways we grow. Ask Peter, who tried to walk on water.
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Peter’s story is gospel, but also a parable about risk, failure and growing. The story, as Matthew tells it, takes place on the Sea of Galilee one stormy night. The disciples were in their fishing boats, rowing against a stiff wind, when Jesus walked by them — on the water.
According to the story, the disciples were at first frightened, thinking they were seeing an apparition. Then, when assured it was Jesus, Peter cried out, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”
Peter could have stayed in the boat, safe from wind and waves, but God had placed in Peter, as he has placed in us, a hunger for high adventure. So, when Jesus called out to Peter: “Come!” Peter leaped out of the boat and began to walk toward Jesus on the crests of the waves.
But, when he realized what he was doing, Peter panicked and began to sink. “Lord, save me,” he cried out. Immediately Jesus reached out, took his hand, pulled him out of the water and they walked together to the boat.
Did Peter do extremely badly? Indeed. Did he do it in the most embarrassing manner possible? Absolutely. But — and here’s the point — Peter walked on water, the only person other than Jesus to do so, and he never forgot the feeling, or the hand that lifted him out of his failure, and sustained him as he walked again.
So, I ask you, what is God calling you to do? You say, “I’m an ordinary person; my circumstances are restricted; my conditions are commonplace. What can I do, and how can I know what God wants me to do or to be?”
He will let you know. It may be to follow your heart’s desire for deeper intimacy with God and personal holiness. It may be to fulfill your longing to teach a child, or to share your faith with a neighbor. It may be to struggle against some sin that you can hardly stand to look at, or to think about — a perverse thing that has defeated you again and again. It may be a godly choice that will result in cruel ridicule, or an act so far beyond you that it seems ridiculous to try. Or it may be to bear a disability with patience.
That drawing in your soul, that dawning of hope is the voice of God himself telling you to come. Get out of your boat and walk — even if at first you don’t succeed. Give it a shot. As a friend of mine says, “If a thing is worth doing it’s worth doing badly.”
David and Carolyn Roper co-direct the work of Idaho Mountain Ministries, a ministry of clergy care. David is the author of 14 books. The most recent: Teach Us To Number Our Days. His musings are archived on davidroper.blogspot.com/
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.