I felt today this truth being impressed upon me: there are many beleivers in Christ who are living their lives by a series of distractions.
What do I mean? Well, take Peter: fresh from his failure, his denial of Christ, after the Resurrection he announces to his fellow disciples, “I’m going fishing.” Maybe he genuinely thought he was permanently sacked from discipleship so there was no alternative but to return to his former way of living and his former liveliehood. However, I don’t think so; I think he was trying the remedy of distraction to deal with his inner fears and turmoils, shames and shadows of defeat. Frequently when I was a pastor it seemed that was the height of advice many people struggling internally were given by the world’s well-meaning wisdom and learning even in the form of Professionals from one field or another; go for a walk, clean a room, take up a hobby. There may be some measure of wisdom in the strategy of distraction, but to be honest to tell a person carrying deep trauma or shame to vacuum a room seems a bit like trying to bring down a giant with a pea-shooter, however well intentioned the aim and the advice.
When Jesus appeared on the shore, Peter jumped into the sea to get to Him before the other disciples but also to climb his way out of the sinking sand of the mocking powerlessness of his own strategy of distraction. He went to where he feared to go and yet needed to go; to Jesus. What did he find? He found what I can only describe as mercy marked by integrity and hope. Mercy is not pretending something never happened. Far from distracting Peter from what caused him inner pain, Christ in several ways resets the scene of his failure as the backdrop for much needed mercy and the reawakening of true hope and a restored sense of Kingdom-of-God living and purpose.
So often when we have kept a distance from the Lord, we can fear going in the one direction we need to go: straight to the Lord of integrity and hope-filled mercy. I know tonight some will read this blog who have been afraid to pick up the one book they need to pick up; the bible. Some who are reading this blog will be afraid to do what you long to do; to start praying again; you may even feel you have forgotten how to pray. May God give you the courage of Peter to pick up the bible; may He give you courage to pray as a child speaking with their loving father, not as an adult negotiator with a hard to persuade God; may He give you faith in the hope-filled mercy of Christ. Put everything aside right now and come close to Him. Take a step towards him in some way by some gesture or act and you will find that He was ahead of you making preparations for your arrival just as had been made for Peter that day on the beach. He knew you would be coming before you did and has prepared the meeting and talking place, the place of His extended hospitality.
What’s more, perhaps soon after you read this blog, you will find the relief of speaking with Him about where you really are. That is where Peter got to on the beach. The English text conceals that a bit. When Jesus asked Peter if he really loved Him more than the others, as he had claimed before , Peter effectively says “Yes/No.” He could no longer keep up the pretence of having as deep a love for Jesus as he had publicly and emotionally and perhaps proudly proclaimed for all to hear; the sort of love that would sacrifice everything, even life itself, in a completley altruistic way for the sake of the one it loves. Instead, he tells Jesus repetitively and yet with conviction and unwavering insistence despite being questioned repeatedly by the One who knows all things, that he can genuinely say and mean this: he wants friendship with Jesus; he knows this and boldly states it; he does not want to lose that friendship. He can no longer promise great things, great sacrifices. He has learned a distrust in himself which he needed to learn. Now he is being honest. Whatever might happen in the future, at this point, all he could say with integrity is that he wanted friendship with Jesus. The wonderful thing is, that Jesus accepted that more limited offering of love. He could build on that foundation, for it had a ring of humble truthfulness and integrity about it: and build, He most certainly did.
When you read the bible you see patterns in Peter that you know as the reader are going to be disastrous. However Jesus always saw not just the patterns but the potential. Remember Peter was a Christ originated nickname, a nickname one might give to a champion, to a prize-fighter: Simon, Son of Jonas, would be Peter Son of Jonas, “Rocky Johnson.” On the beach He called him Simon Johnson again, and from that renewed place of humility and realisation of his own weakness, hand in hand with friendship with Jesus, the march towards the Peter Potential begins. The sequels to “Rocky and The Cockerel” were already planned.
Please, please, please, if you have stayed away too long, or run away too long, run towards Jesus; he will meet you with warmth, with nourishment and invite you for a mutual walk of talking and listening along the path of truthfulness and promise.
Just thought it would be worth updating this blog by adding a few lines from “Celtic Daily Prayer, Book 1, page 356 (Published by William Collins). The commentary on the bible readings for today, 8th February, includes these wonderful words: “…since there is nowhere I can flee from Thee save to Thee, Thou dost stretch out Thine arms to receive me and bend down Thy head to kiss me…” Truly beautiful thought and truth: may the words of this quotation bless you as they blessed me this morning and again this evening.
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