Peter denied Jesus.
The last day Peter had to point at a man he loved like a brother, knew as a teacher, and proclaimed as a savior was instead a day he turned away. Peter believed he would never again break bread or travel alongside or speak intimately with Jesus. The guilt of those three days settled into the very cracks of his being. The wait between crucifixion and resurrection is a terrible, agonizing time of uncertainty. Our beautiful, gracious, life-giving reality is that the three days ended with the final sacrifice rising again to cover the guilt and shame of sin and brokenness.
But Peter’s dark reality didn’t yet include the final sacrifice and was missing the most crucial piece of information needed to understand the life and death of Jesus Christ.
So in the moment when Peter’s reality shifts to include the resurrection is something beyond beauty to me. I am left breathless at the sight of Peter vaulting from the boat in a frenzy to be first to reach Jesus and see and touch the proof of hope.
Peter and I are made of the same stuff. I get the bold declarations and sweeping statements saturated with overconfidence. I’ve often said I live my life in black and white. In my mind, there’s not a whole lot of in-between. I’m either ecstatic about life or devastatedly desolate. I love or I hate. I over exaggerate my words and my actions. I think maybe Peter lived the same way.
During a Chi Alpha conference I attended in January, one of the speakers illustrated God’s grace through Peter’s story in a way that has stuck inside my brain, bouncing around and bumping into my thoughts. She told the story of Peter jumping out of the boat on the day Jesus appeared to the disciples by the lake, reminding me how, at this point in the story, the last day Peter saw Jesus was far from his finest. Yet Peter ran to Jesus and was met with nothing but love and grace. Jesus met him where he was. No questions. No demands for better. Just grace. I have been so encouraged by this scene.
In all my moments of failure and weakness, I imagine Peter swimming to shore to meet his savior with a repentant but uncertain heart, and I come humbly before my God. Peter denied his knowledge of Jesus three times and yet was loved, and I am received with the same wild grace that seems to be foolishness to the world. I don’t understand it, but I feel thankful for it down to my very bones.
Believe it or not, this is not the first time God has taught me big lessons about grace. Nearly four years ago in a chapel I have grown to love, I was brought, sobbing, to my knees by a simple verse stating God’s grace. I was shaken to the core and my world was torn apart at the seams, just as the earth shook and the temple veils tore on the day two thousand years ago when grace came down. I am loved. And I knew it for the very first time in a very real way. I was broken and inadequate and selfish and scarred and LOVED. That day, my heart changed in huge ways and my faith has been impacted by that realization ever since.
I really thought I had learned this grace lesson. Done. Check it off. What else do you have to teach me, Lord?
Ha ha. I can imagine my heavenly father shaking his head and laughing in much the same way my earthly father still shakes his head and laughs when I miss the mark. Life isn’t like that, dear MyKayla Jean. You will be learning the same lessons in different ways your whole life.
In education, we have a term for this: reteaching. Sometimes, my students nail a skill on the head on a Thursday and walk back into school on Monday as though Thursday never happened. Sometimes, my students really get a concept on Tuesday morning and when the same concept is revisited that afternoon, I am met only with thirty blank stares. Time for a little RETEACHING. As a teacher, I am constantly evaluating what my students know and considering whether to reinforce what we have learned or present the information in a new way. Reteaching happens. Reteaching takes up more of my time than introducing new content. I have heard lots of statistics and research on how many times a student needs to encounter a new word or piece of information before learning it and am always astonished by how high that number is. I have commonly heard seven to twelve times! (Please do not quote me on this – I tend to generalize information and did not actually look this up. :)
My point here: God reteaches the same lessons over and over and over again. I shouldn’t be surprised to encounter the same truths communicated by different people and with different words that hit a different soft spot in my heart. Here I am, four years older, four years wiser, and annoyed with God for trying to teach me something I clearly mastered 48 months ago. (Did you know you are allowed to be annoyed, or even angry with God? That’s another lesson that I have resisted and been retaught more than once.)
Hopefully, the long and hard conversations with the many patient people God has placed in my life are slowly changing my heart and mindset. I am learning to accept God’s grace in new and different ways. I am learning to be still and allow God to delight in me – even when I’m a mess. (This. Is. Not. Easy.) I am learning.
With love, MyKayla Jean