Life is not a straight line. There are side roads, changes, and interruptions that you neither foresee nor anticipate. You may face a job loss, failed relationship, health crisis, or even a virus that strikes and changes everything. When these things happen, we are not just taken out of our comfort zone, but plunged into an unknown, without a plan or direction.
I want to say that I always react well; my response is steady, and my faith is strong. But that would be a lie. Sometimes I rise to the occasion, but other times, my humanity is glaringly present. In the seasons when I am disappointed in myself, I wonder if I am disappointing God. Perhaps he is as disheartened in me as I am of myself. I assume that he looks at my actions and reactions and then determines I am lacking. That I am not strong enough for what he called me to in life.
I’m not the only one faced with their limitations, especially when walking into the unknown. There are others around me who I know have as well. But is this solely due to the season we are living in, or has this struggle been present throughout history?
A Flawed Man With a Lasting Legacy
I recently read about the end of Jesus’ life on earth and found myself looking at his companions, those who walked with him in his final week of life. It was Peter who flew off the pages at me. A few days before Jesus’ last week, Jesus chose to wash the feet of his disciples. Peter’s response to Jesus’ action was one of horror, stating he would not allow his Master to wash his feet. It was beneath the Teacher he loved. When Peter was told that in order to be a follower of Christ and part of his family, Peter’s feet must be washed by this Servant-Master, Peter exclaimed that he wanted not only his feet washed, but his head and hands as well. In other words, Peter’s response was, “I’m all in.” He wanted to miss no part of the life Jesus offered (John 13:1-17).
In the last week of Jesus’ life, Peter observed so many profound moments. He was one of the two who were tasked with getting the donkey for Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The animal was exactly where Christ stated it would be, and it was given to them freely. Peter then watched Christ ride this simple creature into the town as the celebration along the streets rose to a frenzy. His emotions had to be at a glorious high. The masses were honoring the Jesus he loved.
Yet only a few short days later, he failed at the task given. After the Passover dinner which we now know as the Last Supper, Peter, along with James and John, accompanied his Teacher to the gardens. It was there that Jesus left the three, asking them to stay awake and pray with him as he began his heartbreaking journey to his life’s end. Yet Peter and his companions could not stay awake. As Christ was agonizing, Peter was sleeping (Matthew 26:36-46).
Soon after, the betrayer, along with soldiers and officials from the chief priests and Pharisees, entered the garden to take Jesus captive. They were determined to end the life which had caused such upheaval in the lives of the religious. Peter again acted rashly. He drew a sword to defend and attack, cutting off one of the servant’s ears. Jesus corrected him, telling him that was his plan, not God’s (John 18:1-13).
Even before the Passover dinner, Peter confidently proclaimed that he would never deny Christ even when Christ said differently. And Peter did, three times (John 18:15-27). When we read on throughout the New Testament, we are afforded an insight into Peter’s grief over his actions and are given glimpses into his disappointment in himself. Yet Jesus, knowing who Peter was—his strengths, his weaknesses—chose him, and had a plan for his life. The fact that Peter failed did not change that plan.
Shortly before what we term as Holy Week, Peter walked this earth as a disciple, following the Messiah he so loved. Merely 10 days later, all he knew had changed. His Messiah no longer walked this earth as he had before, but now lived on as the resurrected Savior. Peter’s world turned upside down, and he could recount all the ways he had failed.
Peter’s image is often portrayed in the Catholic Church, rightfully so, as the father of the New Testament church. He is honored because of what was proclaimed by Christ well before his death. Christ’s church was built on the foundation of this simple fisherman, this flawed disciple (Matthew 16:18).
In Our Failures, God Strengthens Us
Christ would use this man—as brash, imperfect, and reactionary as he was—to start a movement: the Christian faith, which would last from generation to generation. The church which transcends denominations, whose members come from all walks of life, nationalities, and cultures, from impoverished to wealthy; this church, the family of God, is filled with individuals like Peter. People like me, one who can courageously proclaim him one day and fail him the next.
It is this church and each of us that God intends to use, even when the life we know changes in ways we can’t anticipate or control. Even when we fall short and are disappointed that we did, it is in those times we are lifted back up and set right by the resurrected hands that gave his life for us.
It is during those times that we learn, grow, and become stronger so we, too, can fulfill our purpose. We can have a foundation that Christ can build on, whether in our home, in our community, or in our nation. Yes, we will disappoint. But as with Peter, Christ knew we would way before we did, but that did not change or defeat what was set before this disciple to accomplish. Neither should we allow for our disappointments to defeat us.
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