Twists and turns - August 13, 2017
Most of our lives have twists and turns. The luxury of a smooth gentle chartered course through balmy waters is a rarity in my experience. The same seems to be true of words. I have been indulging myself in reading a book called The Accidental Dictionary by Paul Anthony Jones. It is subtitled The Remarkable Twists and Turns of English Words. Let me share an example.
What could be more bland than the word ‘Nice’? If you are a nice person you are pleasant and happy to help others. I was surprised to discover that its meaning has changed over the years. In the 13th century nice meant ignorant or foolish. In the 14th century it meant lustful or wanton and by the 15th century it carried notions of extravagance, cowardice and sloth. The negative connotations persisted for quite a while. Nice people were fussy, hard to please, sensitive until at last they became attractive, agreeable and, well, rather nice. Why had nice gone on this extraordinary journey? Sadly, Mr Jones did not know.
Most of us like to think we are nice people. But I think Jesus expects more than that. Jesus’ disciples knew more than a few twists and turns in their lives. When they were battered by waves in their fragile boat Jesus walked to them across the water. It’s best to get beyond the questions of Did he? and How? Peter responded in one moment with courage and faith. The next he was overwhelmed by doubt and anxiety. What follows is that Jesus holds out his hand to him and gently chides him for his lack of faith.
Whatever twists and turns our lives take Jesus never ceases to walk toward us. Even when we think we are about to sink. I suspect he has his reasons. Nice is often our default position but Jesus may well want us to do more than just be nice - whatever that is. Maybe find the courage to tackle things that might seem impossible.
Matthew 14: 29-31
“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?”
Lord, I could offer a few suggestions as to why he doubted, but you probably don’t need to hear them. Thanks, though, for the outstretched hand. Whatever twists and turns my life takes make me always ready to take it. Amen.