Does anyone remember that Disney movie, Mulan? If you never saw it, or are possibly too young to remember the movie, I’ll give you a short breakdown. In feudal China, the military begins conscription—forcefully drafting one man from every family into the Chinese army—because of the Huns invading. Because of that, an elderly gentleman, once a military veteran, will have to return to the battlefield. Enter Mulan, a young girl who, because of worrying about her grandfather entering and not being in fighting condition, disguises herself as a man and joins the service. What follows is a pretty good plot about gender roles, women empowerment and equality, and what it means to find yourself.
At one point in particular during the movie, after failing to impress her matchmaker (finding a husband), Mulan begins to sing a song about her plight. Looking into a pool of water, she begins her tune, and what resonated with me—besides the fact that she can sing well—is what she is highlighting to the audience. It’s an important step that we fail to remind ourselves of, but it’s crucial in how we approach our futures; our actions and our dreams. What is that step?
Seeing ourselves before stepping out into uncharted waters.
It’s no secret that taking risks is hard, scary, and often something we downright don’t want to 100% do. We hear all the time though that taking risks is something that we need to do, in order to get ahead in life. We have monikers like, “Here goes nothing,” and “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”. We even have famous celebrities like Drake, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, all telling us the same things: if you don’t take risks, that’s the biggest risk, and you’re losing out. And those monikers and pieces of life advice aren’t wrong at all.
They’re just a little shortsighted.
Now don’t misinterpret what I’m saying here. I’m not saying that these people don’t know what they are talking about. I’m not saying that I am any better than they are, either. Heck, those two names alone have affected more lives than I have in my life so far, and I’m not ashamed to admit that!
What I’m saying is that they aren’t telling the whole story for us. They, and a lot of celebrities when they give these inspirational quotes of taking on the world—risking it all—are illustrating the middle steps of the process before telling us how to get started. It’s like if Stephen King, famed author of thriller novels, said the following to you after you just asked advice on how to write a book:
“Just get out a pen, paper, and start writing.”
You probably see the obvious problem with that strategy, right? What about before you pick up the pen and get out the paper? What do you do? You think—you ponder—you reflect. Fantastic stories don’t just magically write themselves and pop-up with a great conclusion. They have to be thought out; there has to be a measure of introspection and depth inside the writing itself to make it worthy of millions of readers.
And so too, must we realize that our own stories—our lives—need some introspection and depth before we go writing it with reckless abandon.
Jesus, Peter, a boat, and a lot of water
I’m relatively sure that everyone, whether you are a Christian or not, know the story of Peter, Jesus and the boat in the book of Matthew. In every church, there’s been a sermon. In every youth group, there’s been an allusion to it. And in pretty much every book, at least in almost every book about taking risks, there’s a word or two about it. I think even here, I’ve written about it at least once.
To preface before the meat of it that everyone knows, a crowd of people were just with Jesus and the disciples getting fed a miracle feast—he splits five loaves of bread and two fish and feeds five thousand or so people—and prior to that, John the Baptist was beheaded. That’s why Jesus and the disciples retreated to a remote place with a boat and water.
The boat gets blown out in the middle of the lake because of the wind, and after coming back from private prayer time, all this unfolded:
“25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” –Matthew 14:25-30 (NIV)
We know the end part of this: Jesus tells Peter that he had little faith, and that’s why he sank. But what I’m implying is that before he even stepped out of the boat, when he was about to get down out of it, he did exactly what he needed to do—he looked in the water.
He saw his reflection. He saw just exactly who was going to get out of that boat and do the walking.
Why looking into the water before stepping out is important
So what exactly does that do for us? How does seeing ourselves before stepping out of our own boats, into our own waters help us pursue our dreams and goals?
Quite simply, it forces us to understand, as I said, just who exactly is going to be stepping out. When we peer out of our “safe boats”, and see our own faces, we are forced to do some powerful self-realizing. And I really do encourage you to do that before you step out. Take a hard look into your reflection, and start asking the hard questions. What is driving me in my heart and soul to take this step? How do I feel, truly, about myself before I venture into the unknown? Who am I in terms of weaknesses and strengths? Am I truly confident in what I am seeing?
Seriously search within yourself as you see your reflection. It’s important to gain a sense of yourself before you go embark on a powerful journey. Because if you don’t recognize yourself, or don’t see the same thing in that reflection that you were expecting, chances are you won’t be fully realizing your potential and blessings that await you.
I believe this next one though, is uber-important in terms of reflecting and stepping out. Often God has to remind me to do some self-reflecting, just to hammer this point home to me! When you take a deep gander into that water—into that mirror—and find yourself, affirm it solidly in your heart that no one else is going to do the walking out there for you. You are the one lifting the legs. You are the one taking the steps of faith.
Without a doubt, you are the only one putting in the effort to pursue God, your goals, and your end game!
No one else should be doing it for you, if you really want to attain what God has in store for you! Peter didn’t have another disciple hold his hand and say, “It’s okay, I will come with you even though Jesus just called you.” Peter took a look at himself, saw Jesus, and made the effort on his own. He could have said no; he could have asked for someone else.
Instead, he put his faith in the Man awaiting him on the lake, and put his faith in the man who he saw prior to getting out of the boat.
The takeaway here is this: don’t be afraid to take a hard look into that water as you step out. Don’t be afraid to take a short moment or two to focus on what you’re seeing staring back at you.
When we see ourselves, we give ourselves a chance to take accountability for our actions. Those are the actions that will determine our steps, and determine how we will get to where we need to be.
Written by: Michael “Bboy Roach1” Roach