I am confronted and reminded often of my brokenness and especially the brokenness of the past. It may come in the form of a phone call I desire but never receive, a text with accusing non-forgiving words, a public encounter with people that once professed to care but who now turn away without speaking or even by the memory of things past. It may even be the change in vocation and the job I do on a daily basis.
I have wrestled the last two and a half years over how to process repentance, forgiveness and restoration. God clearly demonstrated in the Bible His love for those who repent and turn back to Him. Jesus also left us with a record of His mercy in the New Testament. While King David is the go-to seemingly that people like to point to I have searched for other examples. David’s story is incredible given the mess that was made and for him to still be recognized as “a man after God’s heart” is something I can relate to. No matter what may or may not have happened in my story, I am the same person with the same thoughts, desires, and even convictions as strange as that may sound. I don’t claim David’s status but I have never lost my desire for Him or to follow Him.
Most recently I have wrestled with what I am calling “ministry muscle memory.” I still think about church and what it could look like. I still engage the bible and see sermon’s that could be shared. I still pray and pursue God. I still care about others and especially “the least of these.” I have dreamed about buildings that would make a unique place to invite people to study God’s word and more importantly experience real relationships.
I have concluded that probably I need to let it go for now. Just because I can envision it, feel it and put it together in my head doesn’t necessarily mean that God is calling me to do it. So I will rest and wait and stay as close as I can to be able to hear Him if He calls. I’ve had all the public ministry a person could wish for . . . I don’t need that . . . but to hear His call even to obscurity or to walk with someone through their brokenness may be the call that comes.
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the disciple named Peter. He was impulsive, brash and hasty. He was not polished or tactful. He was a fisherman turned follower of Christ. He was zealous. He was committed. He was ready to be Jesus’ right hand man. He fell hard. He did what he said he would never do. He denied even knowing Jesus let alone following Him. Jesus knew it was going to happen just like He knows what you and I will do. I have often assured myself that the God that called me into ministry at 21 knew where I would be at 53. He still called me, used me and allowed me to be a part of some amazing things. When I found myself “on the outside looking in” at the church world it was fascinating to know that He was there with me the whole time. He was not shocked by anything. He was ready to forgive and restore. Peter found this also and here is a reminder of his story. Yes, I know it’s an outline so . . . preach it if you want. I’m preaching it to myself.
“Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly” Matthew 26:5 NLT
“And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.” Luke 22:62 NLT
A place of conviction: Peter knew as soon as he denied the Lord that he was guilty and had broken his relationship with God. Conviction is a gift that we should never run from. It is hard and it is painful but it is necessary to bring us back to Christ. In the verses below there are two possible unintentional metaphors of what Peter did, “he went away” and “Peter left the courtyard.” If you have ever failed or fallen especially publicly it is as though you “went away” or “left the church world.” He went and wept bitterly at disappointment in himself and the fact that he had failed.
“Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.” Mark 16:7 NLT
A place of separation: Even the angels in the tomb separated Peter from the other disciples when they instructed Mary to go and tell the others. The great thing about this is that they included him even though he was separated from them by his actions. Even when we are away God is still thinking of us and longing for us to return. The church may not give you this indication but God is where you must look for strength when you have failed or fallen.
“Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. 8 The others stayed with the boat. . .” John 21:7-8a NLT
“Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. John 21:12 NLT
A place of invitation: Peter jumped at the chance when he realized he could come face to face with the Lord. Yes, he failed but I don’t believe he ever stopped loving Jesus. I can testify that no matter how far you may drift away due to circumstances that nobody else may understand, you can still long for the Jesus that you have known and loved. Jesus come bring some fish and have some breakfast, but the invitation of His presence is more than physical satisfaction. He came to invite Peter back into the fold. Back into relationship. And He does the same for us today. I love a Jesus that will fix you breakfast and then fix your soul.
After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” John 21:15 NLT
“Then feed my lambs,”
“Then take care of my sheep,”
“Then feed my sheep.
A place of restoration: Do you love Him? That is the biggest question to answer. He didn’t belittle him for his particular failure. He didn’t accuse him of forsaking Him in His hour of need and death. He just said, “Do you love me?” After affirming it three times Jesus restored Peter spiritually and even commissioned him to get back to work.
I rest in this. I will not worry or fret about my gifts or strengths being used or not used. I have a job I am very thankful for and a family to care for, love and pray for. I am tasked with living my faith everyday. I am working hard to surrender my past, present and future. I am learning or at least longing to relax in knowledge and presence of my loving Savior. It’s a daily struggle but in the classic words spoken by Peter a long time ago:
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” John 21:15 NLT