October 7, 2009

You Do Not Understand Now

It's a cool dreary day here in Dallas. I am extremely grateful for it. Though I'm a summer baby through and through, I also eagerly await late September through late November every year; there is something very refreshing about the hot muggy summer days being blown away by the cool dry winds of autumn.

That doesn't have much to do with my post today but I'm giving thanks for it this morning.

It was about three years ago that Lois, my counselor at the time, used a story of the apostle Peter to gently show me the harsh judgmental ways of my heart. I was describing a recent confrontation I'd had with a very dear friend who bluntly told me, "You're harsh." At the time, I was easily frustrated with other people, even my closest friends - either they did/said/believed things that I didn't agree with so I'd let them know (not in the kindest way, mind you), or they fell short of my expectations of who they should be so I'd bite at them or be extraordinarily rude. Deep down I knew this behavior was wrong - the Holy Spirit was showing me so - but I didn't understand why and when apathy set in, I didn't even try to understand what was happening. I thought that I had this weird way of seeing everyone else's junk way better than my own for a special reason, like I was supposed to declare some warning to everyone I know (believe me - pride will convince you of the stupidest things).

As I talked and vented about my frustrations, Lois listened and pulled out her Bible. She asked me to do the same and turn to John 21. I thought she was going to point to Peter's denial of Christ after the rooster crowing. Instead, she told me how she thought some people overlooked Peter's journey of faith and how her study of him throughout the Bible meant so much to her daily walk. This is the passage where Peter professes his love for Jesus three times. She asked me to read verses 15-17 out loud.
Verse 15: When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
Verse 16: He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
Verse 17: He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
When I was finished, she asked if I loved Jesus. My immediate response was yes, of course. If you're familiar with this passage in John 21, you know what happens next. I am almost sure that I'd read this passage but as I sat there with Lois, my pride kept my vision so hazy; I didn't know what Lois was getting at. I thought to myself, "What does this have to do with being judgmental or recognizing sin?" She asked me to continue reading at verse 20.
Verses 20-22: Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”  When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!
I couldn't say those last three words out loud; my throat was tight and the tears flowed. Though I loved the Lord, I spent all my energy looking at everyone else. To borrow a metaphor from my pastor, it's as if I stood next to the cross, with my back to it, pointing at everyone else and demanding that they humble themselves. It was a major revelation to me - to begin to see myself more realistically before the cross was a new experience. And, as if the moment couldn't be any more revelatory, Lois sat and cried with me. She got that this was a big mind/heart-shifting thing for me. She showed extreme compassion and grace to me in that moment.

Please don't hear me say that I'm not judgmental and I'm cured! I still battle the green monster in me and my pride overwhelms me sometimes. I'm still a little rough around the edges. I get very passionate when someone dismisses issues that they don't understand with a "I don't struggle with that" statement, meaning they don't make an effort to avoid temptation in that realm (which, by the way, is the biggest load of horsecrap that I've ever heard! It's exactly what evil wants you to believe!). I genuinely do not want others to fall into traps that I've fallen into myself. I don't want to be harsh but I also do not want to willingly stand by as people walk into the furnace. In fact, one of the reasons I asked to be a part of my church's Lay Counseling class is so that I can learn to speak the truth in love.

Anyhow, I think I got off on a tangent.

I am often reminded of that session with Lois and the words "You follow me!" whenever I read or hear anything about the apostle Peter, like this post by Jon Bloom at Desiring God. Peter really did love the Lord but he had a very tough time letting go of the Pharisaic and cultural routines/beliefs. He also had a lot of pride, something I think I've proved I can resonate with. Peter missed the mark - a lot - when trying to figure out what Jesus was doing in His ministry. Jon uses the first part of John 13 to show Peter's confusion and near-unwillingness to be a part of Jesus's radical new covenant. I can't choose one good quote in the article, I like the entire thing, so go check it out for yourself.

I don't have this thing figured out. I do get overwhelmed occasionally; sometimes it seems like I've taken one step forward only to take two steps back. I do not understand now what the Lord is accomplishing in me, in my friends, in my family, in this city, in this world. However, grace and comfort sweeps in with that bold statement, "You follow me!" I don't have to figure the purpose out. I trust in His ways. I know He is victorious in the end. I know He is good.

If you take anything from this too-long post, take these three words: God is good. A countless number of my nights have been illuminated with those three words. Though you may wrestle to understand what they mean to you, He is faithful and will not fail to be good even if/when you don't fully grasp this truth.

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