Stepping out of the boat

March 27, 2013 

Yesterday while preparing to move, I listened to David Whyte, my favorite poet, as I was packing boxes and taking pictures off the walls of my apartment. He does corporate training both nationally and internationally, and the beauty of that training is his use of poetry to help the corporate community catch better glimpses of how to make itself more humane. Many of his talks focus heavily upon what it means to leave the safe harbors that we have constructed to seek the uncertanity of the frontier.

A good example of this is found in the biblical story about Peter, who was invited by Jesus to leave the safety of his fishing boat and step into the water. Many will recall that Peter was quite successful walking on water until he allowed his attention to shift from Jesus to the water. So it is with our lives. As long as we are willing to pay attention and respond to the messages that are being presented to us, we can walk on the path that leads us to our frontiers.

Though I am willingly stepping out of the boat of 41 years of life in Macon and moving to a new city with great eagerness to see how life will unfold as I go forward, it is not without some degree of fear and trembling. Much like Peter, I am called to stay focused and to step out. It is important to say yes to the call to leave the safe harbor and go onto the frontier. If we say “yes” then new energy is set free in the human psyche that can be the catalyst for growth and the discovery of new parts of ourselves. It is in the uncertainty of stepping out of the boat that new depths of faith can emerge.

Many folks have asked what makes me wish to move from the comfort and security of knowing the community and of being known in the community? It is not a simple question to answer. But the best answer is simply that my heart urges me forward. It is the urge to embrace the unknown, the urge to learn more about myself and to see how God’s faithfulness will manifest itself in my life when I am in a new environment.

One of the things that we can know for certain is that change will always be a part of our lives and the only enlivening response to change is to welcome it with open arms and an open heart. A couple of years ago, I would hardly have imagined that leaving Macon would be of any interest to me -- and then it became a clear call to me, and I am excited to be embracing that call. I will continue to write for the paper and all of the work to which my heart and soul are committed will continue to be a part of my future. But it is exciting to see small glimpses of unfolding new life. Recently I was appointed chair of the Beloved Community: Commission for Dismantling Racism for the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, and I am deeply grateful for that opportunity.

Getting out of the boat into the water does not always appeal to me, but it is a worst choice to stay in the boat when the invitation to leave it has been extended to one’s heart. Embracing the new frontier is a way to say yes to your own life and not to the life that others imagine for you. It is the response that brings opportunities for peace and joy that really do pass understanding. I hope that all who read this will look at the frontiers ahead of you and listen with your head and heart to determine if they are beckoning you to step out of the boat.

This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. E-mail her at

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