The older I get, and the more I live out the blessing of my sexuality, the more the incident of Jesus calling Peter to walk on the water to him comes to means to me.
Amid a raging storm, and a supposed “apparition” of Jesus, Peter has courage enough to step out of the boat and walk on the stormy sea toward the Jesus who beckons him. The problem: he takes his eyes off of Jesus. The clouds over his head are too threatening, the water beneath his feet is too menacing, and Jesus appears to be too far away. And to top it all off, Peter is doing the seemingly impossible, going against nature itself (sound familiar?) by walking atop the water.
So, taking his eyes off of the one who called him to come out of the safety of the boat, Peter begins to sink, and cries out for Jesus to save him. Jesus reaches Peter and supports him, and with gentile chiding asks “Why did you doubt?”
Darkness and storms are all too familiar for GLBT Christians, beginning with the first awareness that we are different from others in a way so intimate, so explosive, such a difference could even bring about our death. It continues when we are shown that, for too many of us, there is no place for us in the Church where we can share who we are and the marvels God has done for us honestly and openly. Loss of family and friends, jobs, self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, feelings we are “against nature” and that we are despised by God, these are the waves that often threaten to engulf us.
Yet we are not alone! For you and I, against all the viciousness leveled against us, have an elder Brother who knows and understands. He has not called us to himself across the storms that batter us only to fend for ourselves. Remember, in the story, Jesus was already walking above the waves when he called Peter. Our Brother Jesus has already endured all the hurt and anxiety, frustration and pain that falls upon us. When we cry out to him as the cares and pressures of the world threaten to swamp us, Jesus understands and is there, even if we do not feel his presence. His strong, carpenters arms are there to bear us up and hold us close to his heart.
And if we allow him such a level of intimacy with us, if we rest against his heart, we will find that the hands that hold us have been wounded, and the heart upon which we find rest, was torn open. Why? Because our Brother Jesus, the Son of the Living God, loves his GLBT friends, calling us, in blood-soaked truth, his sisters and brothers, no matter how the world looks upon us.
Storms pass. Pain comes and goes. Doubts and struggles flair up and die down. Only the love of Jesus, the passionate and burning desire of Jesus for each of us, remains unchanged now and through eternity. It is in that love that we must stand firm. It is in his love that he will help us stand firm.
Tom Yeshua is the pen name of Thomas E.L. Cloutier OFS, a transitional deacon who taught theology for 30 years at Nashua (N.H.) Catholic Regional Junior High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Don Bosco College in Newton, N.J., and a master’s in divinity and theology from St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass.