I really surprised a lot of people I grew up with when I became a pastor. I hadn’t grown up in a church-going family, and I had a bit of a wild streak. Becoming a spiritual leader wasn’t part of the trajectory I was on, but there’s one similarity from who I was growing up and who I am now. I’ve always liked standing up in front of people and making them laugh, and though preaching and performing stand up comedy aren’t exactly the same thing, there is definitely some overlap.
When I was 18, I moved to New York City and started working open mic nights at comedy clubs trying to get my foot in the door. During that time, I met a documentary producer who told me he was making a film about comedy and wanted me to be a part of it. It seemed like a great opportunity so I agreed and he put me on a showcase at a local club. When I showed up to the gig it was packed and some of New York’s best comedians were headlining the show.
I found out I would be opening the show and I started to get nervous. I had an intense fear rise-up inside me because I felt unprepared and realized I didn’t match up to the talent being featured that night. I told the producer I was nervous he told me straight out, “Look, you’re not that funny, but I need someone like you to show people what it’s like first starting out in comedy and then we’ll showcase these guys that are at the top of their game.” That didn’t make me feel any better and that fear got the best of me. I lost any courage to go out on stage and I backed out of the show. I’ll never know what might have happened if I overcame my fear and went out on stage.
Fear can be crippling and if it’s not faced head on, then the fear of stepping out can lead to missing out. That’s because the easiest way to deal with a fear is do avoid the thing that makes you afraid. If you let the fear of flying control your life then it limits how much you get to travel. If you’re always afraid of your child getting hurt then you could spend all your time being overprotective. It can be more personal, too. Maybe you’re afraid of being vulnerable with people, so you miss out on friendships and strong relationships.
There is no silver bullet out there when it comes to how to get over these fears, but we can look at how Jesus talked about fear, especially with his disciples. In Matthew 14 the disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee and it starts to storm. The scripture says that all the disciples were afraid for their lives, so it must have been been a bad storm because all of these guys were experienced fishermen. Suddenly they see what they think is a ghost, but then they realize it is Jesus walking out to them on the water. Then Peter makes this huge statement of faith in verse 28: “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” And Jesus says, “Come.”
Peter steps out in faith and actually walks on the water to Jesus, but then verses 30-31 say, “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.”
There are two things that stand out to me. One is obvious and that’s had Peter kept his sight on Jesus he wouldn’t have doubted and started to sink. But the other point is that Peter didn’t let his fear of stepping out lead to missing out. Peter is often portrayed as having little faith in this moment because he sank, but the truth is he had immense faith in Jesus to the point that when Jesus said to walk on the water, that’s what Peter did, despite the wind and the waves. Where is Jesus calling you to walk out onto the water?
Pastor Eric Partin is the lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Destin and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.