By Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz, PhD
“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?” (Matthews 14:28-31)
While working in Central America there was a young colleague that I was mentoring. He followed me everywhere, and had information at the tip of his fingers. He knew that our goal was to gain the trust of the rebels, the military and the government. Once a peaceful co-existence was achieved, the group that I worked for would be able to provide crisis intervention, burial of dear ones, and achieve closure to the disappearance of dear ones. Week after week we moved from one village to another.
We had some specific rules that we needed to follow to assure that we would be able to carry out our jobs in a peaceful way. This young psychologist wanted to participate in every mission. He knew the rules, understood the risks of our job, and the consequences when we didn’t pay attention.
On one occasion we were going to a specific dangerous place called “El triangulo de Itchil”. I reminded the team of the mission, the rules and the importance of paying attention. I entered with one of the colleagues, into the bush and managed to follow a trail to the target village. I radioed back and called the other members of the team headed by the young psychologist.
Soon a radio message came back to me, saying we lost the trail, “we are going to track to the right 25 meters”. We both knew the consequences of this action. I asked him to stop where he was and wait for me. I ran up the trail and saw them some 100 meters away. I went back on the radio and asked them to walk straight to me. I waived, they waived…. an indication that we had visual and radio contact. They started walking toward me. All of a sudden there was some noise and two gun shots. I saw them take cover. I called back and asked them to walk toward me. “It is safe, I said, walk toward me.” They walked slowly toward me, they were not far away now. All of a sudden there were noises and a gunshot.
Two memoirs of the group started to run straight towards me. The young psychologist threw his bag to the right and started running to the left of me. A mine exploded. There was plenty of smoke. I walked slowly toward the young man. He was laying on the ground, I wasn’t sure if he was hurt. When I got to him he was just opening his eyes. I asked, “How are you doing?” He said “nervous but OK”. His bag had hit a wire that exploded a mine.
As we rested in the village, I asked, “What happened, why didn’t you follow my instructions?” He said, “I was scared and lost my concentration. I heard the noise, and saw the sign for land mines, and became very afraid.”
I was reminded of the teachings in the Book of Mathew. Peter thought he had learned everything there was to learn from Jesus. He could do anything that Jesus did. When Peter saw Jesus walking on water, he thought he could do the same. He asked Jesus, and Jesus asked Peter to walk to him. Peter saw so much turbulence around him that he lost his concentration on Jesus. He forgot that Jesus is the way, and he sank into the waters. Jesus extended his hand and saved him.
In these days, from Lent to Easter, we spend our time studying the life and good works of Jesus Christ. We are taught to trust and obey, and He shall deliver us. Many spend a lot of time either reading the Bible or Lectionaries, going to church services, prayer meetings or masses, where they are reminded about Jesus ministry and its meanings for us today. We get to know about Jesus in our heads and our emotions but fail to reflect on what all this really means.
We ask Jesus for peace, when He invites us to walk toward Him. We initiate the walk but at times of thoughts, feelings, and spiritual being is diverted by external stimuli. We fall. We leave Jesus, we forget His teachings, and we fall. But we are never left alone; He is always at our side. We live in turbulent moments: Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen are currently in those moments. If we pray for transformation and peace, we will experience transformation and peace.
Like the young psychologist in the story, the future will never be the same as our current present. As we shift our vision from the existing turbulence to the peace brought about by the soft winds of the dessert, caress our beings, we will see and feel the presence of God within us.