I come late to writing today, this Monday… I started a few words earlier in the day, but life’s responsibilities came and took me by the hand. I had little opportunity to write today, little time to reflect on words and thoughts and write them down, flesh them out. Until now.
But I find the time, because that is simply how it is, and this is simply what I do. And so I am here late, when this day, May 23, 2011, will close its doors in over an hour.
I am thinking of the words I heard yesterday, from John chapter 21. It’s a story of some men (Scripture names them) who were fishing in a boat all night long, but catch nothing. In the morning, a man from shore tells them to drop the net again, from the right side. They could have argued, but they do as the man, Jesus, says, and the net becomes heavy with fish (but doesn’t break). Jesus then beckons them to shore, with hot coals and a fire waiting, with fish and bread cooking.
And then Jesus asks Simon Peter if he loves him. Not once. Not twice. But three times, the same question. And the third time, scripture says Peter was hurt (or grieved). “You know that I love you”.
I was thinking how frustrated I can feel as a mom when I must repeat words or instructions to my children more than once. Or if I must ask the same question multiple times before I get an answer. But usually in those cases, I am repeating myself because I have not received the answer or result I was seeking.
In this instance, it seems as if Peter is indeed answering the question, until finally, he is hurt by being asked the same question again. Peter might be wondering why Jesus is asking him three times. Is he pushing the buttons… reminding Peter of his previous denial? His previous failure? Asking three times to rub salt in the wound… or three times to offer back the words of love? I wonder what Peter is thinking. Maybe, something like this: “Why must you remind me Jesus? I am hurt. I do love you, but… haven’t we gotten past this? Why bring up the failures of the past?”
Our pastor’s sermon was titled “Coming Out of Failure”, and suggested that perhaps Jesus was pushing Peter a bit… until it did hurt. He knew. He asked to the point of the hurt, to get to the failure, so it could be dealt with, in order to move on to freedom and to the life He has for us.
So Peter was hurt, because Jesus asked—a third time. Three times, the same number that Peter denied him.
Doesn’t failure hurt… sting a little bit? Or even a lot? Even when we are reminded, especially if the occurrence is a recent one? Perhaps Peter’s denials were still fresh on his mind.
But then Pastor Matt did a few quick story bytes of successes and failures from others in scripture who had failed and/or succeeded:
-Moses: killed a man, banished out of Egypt, and then God speaks to him from a burning bush and Moses says he’s not the man, he can’t talk well. God uses him to free the Israelites from slavery and lead them to the Promised Land. Moses will not be allowed to enter the land of promise.
-Abraham: denied or didn’t admit that Sarah was his wife
-Joseph: shared his dreams with his brothers, received a beautiful coat from his father; but then beaten and sold into slavery by his own brothers, and his father thinks he is dead. Then Joseph is sent to prison through no fault of his own. Joseph earns favor and trust and eventually becomes a trusted leader, close to Pharoah, second in command.
-David: takes another man’s wife; connived to have this woman’s husband killed; yet a man with a heart who loves God
-Joshua: leads the Israelites to the Promised Land; defeats armies, enemies; he prays for the sun to stand still as he defeats one group. Jericho’s walls fall after the men walk around the city seven times and trumpets blow.
While listening to these accounts I realize that each battle or victory won, each circumstance conquered—is a different one. God did something unique with each person. There is not one formula here for victory that applies to another’s situation. God didn’t use the same method each time, not one single way of winning. Each battle, each challenge, was overcome in a unique way. He had a different plan for each of the people mentioned above. The constant is God, his faithfulness, his glory.
Because each of us is an individual, with no set of circumstances exactly like anyone else’s, the challenges and victories we encounter will also not be exactly the same as any others’. We all may struggle in different ways or similar ways. But the way God chooses to move in our lives will be unique to our situation.
This spoke to me… of my failures, challenges, and that I can’t look to another person’s life and compare, ask for the same or different circumstances, or victory.
I’ve been nudged in the hurtful spot of failures. But, I trust God is good, crafting a purpose and plan and revealing His glory in each different circumstance, each different life, through the failures. His plan is to lead me to a place of freedom, to a better life.
What about you? Have you felt God nudging you in a place of failure? Where do you think He’d like you to be?
And now for my weekly gratitude list. This is helping me. I can honestly say— I can recall several instances when a negative thought or complaint entered my head, and the conscious decisions I made to turn them around and think about something to be thankful for.
209. For dandelions dotting fields of gree, like yellow bits of sunshine…. I know they’re a pesky weed in a yard, but they sure are pretty scattered wild in a green field
210. For a warm sunny Sunday, after days of rain and cold
211. For sitting in the rain for one hour watching a soccer game… when was the last time I sat out in the rain (under an umbrella?)
212. For antibiotics that heal … thankful to God for giving man the knowledge for this medicine.
213. A favorite fragrant bush, a blooming delight to the eyes… and a perfume to match. I don’t know the name of this bush, but it blooms usually in early May (it’s a bit late this year).
214. For books on CD (I almost put the word “tape” instead of “CD”… sheesh. That dates me, doesn’t it?!).
215. For stories, as unique as people.
216. That God heals. Wounds. Diseases. Illnesses. Headaches. Heartaches. Strep Throats.
217. Watching my two sluggers play baseball. I think I really do enjoy baseball.
218. And I like watching soccer too. More action! Thankful for fun soccer games. I am surprising myself (usually I’m not a loud shouter at games- and I’m still not)—but I’m finding myself unable NOT to say something… like “You can do it!” or “Nice job!” or “Go Green (team)! Get in there!” Not having been much of a sports participant, I am now a… soccer mom?
219. Watching my girl run track. I went to my first track meet in my entire life last week (no kidding!) And for my daughter, when she went to her first meet, it was also the first meet in her life, too.
220. Passing out bottles of Gatorade and snacks to the boys after the game.
221. For the many smiling people at the grocery store today. I don’t know why I saw so many. It was a good day to shop at the grocery store.
222. For teaching a group of high schoolers last week, and hearing of the college plans of the seniors… the excitement of being on the brink of another phase
223. From Matthew 24— that there are such things that God, only You know, and You keep hidden from man and from angels, and Jesus himself doesn’t know… there are such things You have said no man shall know… but in Your mercy You have given enough information to show us signs… and tell us to always be ready for Your coming.
224. that the sky speaks (from Psalm 19):
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.
225. that there is much to look forward to, that God’s law is perfect, he is trustworthy, that His commands are “RADIANT”:
7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
226. that I can be forgiven even of hidden faults, that there is hope that my words may be found pleasing to Him:
12 But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
I share this Graceful Michelle at Hear it on Sunday/Use it on Monday
And with Graceful Ann at A Holy Experience: Multitudes on Mondays