The Great Lakes are making history. There is more ice on the lakes this winter then there has been in over a decade. 88% of the lakes are covered in ice. I pulled up a special map designed to display ice coverage and was not surprised to find that my great lake, Lake Erie, is completely covered in ice. I could have told you that without a map. If you've lived through the past two months in Erie then you could practically write the map for the National Weather Service. After all, experience is the best teacher and there is no doubt we have experience with ice.
I've enjoyed the scenes that accompany a frozen lake and bay. In Erie the ice fisherman are out in full swing and even walkers, photographers, ice skaters and ice boaters are all out on the bay enjoying activities that are only offered when thick ice is available. During my runs down at the Peninsula I take in the view of the winter warrior's activities. My favorite groups to watch are the parents and grandparents with their kids who love the thrill of walking on the ice. The surface that is usually freely flowing, lapping up against the shore with gentle waves has turned into a rock solid ice floor that is over a foot thick.
In all my years of living in Erie I've never walked on the bay in the winter. Even when the ice has been thick enough I've never wanted to venture out onto its surface. I guess I've always been afraid that I'll be that one single unfortunate soul that steps on the solitary patch of thin ice, sending me down into the icy waters below. That possibility has never been worth the risk, in my opinion. So I've always avoided the scenario all together.
If the ice is record breaking then I suppose now would be my best shot at exploring the surface of the bay without risking life and limb, right? So today after my run I decided to finally experience the thrill of a walk on the ice.
Gently and carefully, I stepped out onto the ice. The view was pretty much the same as from the sidewalk but there was an added excitement because I knew that this was not pavement or dirt underneath all the snow. It was a sheet of thick ice with water flowing underneath.
As I walked along the slippery surface, relying on the traction of the snow to keep me upright, I couldn't help but think of Peter walking on the water to Jesus. In Matthew 14 the familiar story is recounted.
"Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said,“why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (V. 25-33)
These verses came to mind as I nervously explored the ice. All of the sudden I started to see the Peter in me.
How often have I read this story of Peter and thought, "Come on Peter! Jesus is calling you. Get over your fears and walk out there!" I tell myself that I wouldn't have been afraid. With my have faith I would have been running on that water to get to Jesus!
...But would I really? I was nervous to walk on ice! I was watching little kids run and play on the ice, fisherman pitch tents on the ice, photographers set up tripods on the ice… And I still had this lingering nervousness that I might possible fall into the icy waters. How silly! If my faith in rock solid ice had doubts, what would my level of doubt be if asked to walk on freely flowing water?
As I walked further out onto the ice I repeated those words of Jesus in my mind, "why did you doubt?" Those are words I don't want God to ever have to speak to me. I don't want to be nervous, anxious and fearful. I don't want to hesitate to put my entire, wholehearted faith in God. When He says, "come" I want to be ready and willing to heed the call with every ounce of my being!
My walk continued on but my nerves didn't. As I walked along the bay I realized that I was no longer anxious. My fears about crashing into a freezing pool of water were gone. I was walking with nothing but assurance and confidence that the ice would hold and my steps would be secure.
It might have been just a small, almost laughable, act of faith but this morning walking on ice was what I had to give to God. That walk was my display of mustard seed sized faith.
Next time God calls me forth I pray that I will cast off any anxieties that tempt to hold me back. Instead I'm going to put on my ice-walking faith that relies on the solid and secure foundation of Jesus Christ.