In C.S. Lewis’s classic theological sci-fi tale, Perelandra, the main character, Dr. Elwin Ransom, is sent on a journey to the planet Venus—or, in their language, Perelandra—which is in its own Eden, with the mission of averting the new world’s impending Fall. He finds it a world of floating islands in a vast, warm ocean, and there he comes face to face with this world’s Eve—a beautiful, innocent woman destined to be the mother of all Perelandra’s living. He has the unenviable task of explaining our world’s psychology:
“...in our world not all events are pleasing or welcome...”
“But how can one wish any of those waves not to reach us which Maleldil [the Creator] is rolling towards us?”
Ransom counters by pointing out her own disappointment, however momentary, at seeing him, a stranger, when she’d hoped for her husband, this world’s Adam.
She grasps the concept, expands upon it, and summarizes,
“... You could send your soul after the good you had expected, instead of turning it to the good you had got. You could refuse the real good; you could make the real fruit taste insipid by thinking of the other.”
So often...so very often... I find myself in that place. Grasping for what used to be—or for what I think should come ahead—that I cannot focus on and savor the gift that God has placed in my hands, today.
And then there is the place of knowing something is coming—of seeing two or more alternate paths before me, but dreading them all. I shared before how I stood in that place many years ago after the birth of my sixth baby—I didn’t think I could face the possibility of his surviving as a medically fragile child, but losing him completely was hardly a better alternative.
I’m facing a similar crisis in our family’s future, one thankfully not as dire as the life of a child hanging in the balance. But oh, I find myself full of terror for whatever might come, standing in that trough between waves. This is not the response the Maker of the sea would want me to have, I know.
I wonder, when Jesus invited Peter to step out of that boat and onto the surface of the stormy lake of Galilee, was Peter terrified? He had to be. Sure, he must have been drawn by the lure of adventure—he was a strong, hearty fisherman, quicker to act than think—but to say his heart didn’t pound or his head didn’t swim (no pun intended!) as he climbed over the side and onto the waves, well ... I can’t imagine that.
Of course, there’s the other time, when Jesus lay asleep in the back of the boat, and the storm came up, and the disciples feared for their lives before finally going to wake Him up. He stilled the storm, then rebuked them for their lack of faith.
What’s the difference, then? Maybe it’s daring to step out of the boat, to come where He calls me, however crazy it looks, regardless of how my heart pounds with terror—as opposed to continuing to deal with a crisis on my own strength, not wanting to “bother” Him with my paltry fears, until at last I’m driven to His feet by my desperation.
All right, then. As the Lady in Perelandra says,
“I thought … that I was carried in the will of Him I love, but now I see that I walk with it. I thought that the good things He sent me drew me into them as the waves lift the islands; but now I see that it is I who plunge into them with my own legs and arms, as when we go swimming. I feel as if I were living in that roofless world of yours when men walk undefended beneath naked heaven. It is delight with terror in it. One’s own self to be walking from one good to another, walking beside Him as Himself may walk .... The world is so much larger than I thought. I thought we went along paths—but it seems there are no paths. The going itself is the path.”
I’ll step out, Lord—and I’ll walk, wherever You might call. Help me to embrace the waves You roll toward me.
Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:25-27)
But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. (Matthew 14:30-32, both NKJV)