Sometimes a few words of scripture begins to press into my thoughts and settle there. This happened recently and has stirred much thought as I’ve pondered life and the many challenges it brings.
I was once a young person with questions too many to name, each one causing turbulence and unrest. Those days seemed both too long and too short all at the same time. Never enough time to complete all that needed to be done, yet always so long they felt they would never end. Such was my young adult life.
Spending time alone in my flower garden this past week and a half, I’ve found my thoughts taking stock of growth, of change, of the narrowing of my questions from broad and abstract to the fundamental, foundational ones that have been answered and on which I now stand to manage the larger ones that once seemed unanswerable.
I think of how relationships in this life set the stage for both the asking and the answering that we will do throughout our lives. I think of what we learn from others and how we are sometimes able to gain wisdom from listening. Other times we find wisdom by recognizing the lack of wisdom in former teachers and having to disavow what from them we learned. (Note: teachers defined as all from whom we learn)
This process of learning and growing is painful, especially considering the deep feelings of love and connection that we have with those in our lives whether they taught us well or failed us by leading us astray due to their own lack of understanding of truth and/or adherence to it.
What one chooses impacts many. This is true for everyone, not just some.
One of the most foolish statements that has ever been made is this, “I’m only hurting myself.” My reply borrowed from someone I love, “hogwash!” Indeed…
Human beings have a way of complicating matters. We are prone to confusion, distraction, and deceit. We cannot really blame others for deceiving us once we are adults because we have means by which to seek truth, to weigh evidence, to measure results. In other words, there comes a time when we are without excuses. Now is a good time for us all to face this truth and take responsibility for what we say and do, for what we know or don’t know…
The scripture that has been heavy in my mind this past week is from Matthew 16:15-16. Jesus asked his disciples, “Whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Let that settle…This is the greatest question ever posed and one that will ultimately be asked of every one of us.
I pondered over this exchange between Peter and Jesus with the knowledge of what was to follow. Though Peter answered correctly, he would later deny knowing The Lord, yet…Jesus declared him “blessed” upon the answer when he uttered it before the group of witnesses. Great suffering was to follow for Peter. He would be broken by his sin and would come face to face with his Lord in the moment of betrayal. He would anguish in misery as he looked honestly into his pitiful state. Peter had to be broken in order to be made a faithful follower of his Lord. There are lessons here for us. Knowing the right answer is not enough. Saying the right answer is not enough. We must know, speak, and live out the truth of who Christ is in order to fulfill His will for us in this world and beyond.
Can you look with me at Peter in the moment of his denial? What if it had ended there? What if there was no more said of Peter in scripture? What would we believe of Peter? How different would he look from Judas? Not very, huh? Yet…the rest of the story reveals the difference between Peter and Judas, between the broken and restored and the betrayer who doesn’t return.
Now…back to my own early struggles and trying to figure out what I was to do with this life that had been given to me. So much searching and struggling, seeking answers in places that could never yield what I was looking for, when all along The Lord was using the unrest to draw me, to awaken me, to arouse me to the seeking that would lead to the finding.
He led me through so many valleys, so many dark places, so much sorrow so that I would seek to know Him, so that I would find the answers that would matter for all time, for all eternity.
I started my true education in the old King James Bible that lay on the end table in my parents’ living room when I was 11 years old. I read those difficult words that were so awkward for my young mind to manage, but I knew there was truth to be found and I prayerfully asked for understanding. I asked for years and I still ask.
I went to college, then on to graduate school. I read mountains of books and articles. I listened to lectures from “the experts” on relationships, human development, psychological health and mental illness. I studied grief, trauma, and healing. I came home from my studies and spent time working in hospitals and colleges. Then I had my little boy and came home for 3 years to be with him. The quiet of the house took some getting used to after so much business of so many years. I had raised Heather while seeking, struggling, trying to learn, and then found myself home in her 17th year with a tiny baby to rock while she was away in her last years of high school. What a whirlwind it had been and then suddenly, it stopped. I was left in the midst of my thoughts, quiet, and except for my baby, alone.
While he slept, I found myself drawn back to The Words of the first book that ever captivated my mind. I came back to it as a tired Mama who was still searching, still grappling with many unanswered questions. I had seen so many devastated lives and my own hadn’t been a cake walk. I had read all there was to read from those who claim to know the most, yet I always found holes in their answers, exceptions, disagreements, competing views. Yet, I found within the pages of the Sacred Book, wisdom that could be found nowhere else. Wisdom that was pure and clear, answers that were whole and complete. The same trappings of ancient times continue to be the ones that entangle human beings today. Greed, lust, deceit, pride…”there is nothing new under the sun.” We have the answers if only we will honor them with humble hearts.
Revisiting the old stories that had not changed and seeing the messages that clearly laid out the path that leads to life and the path that leads to death, I saw that indeed His Words are a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. The evidence of the truth of The Book outweighs all else without question. God is who He says He is and His Word is truth. It does not fail. It does not change…it doesn’t need to because it is right, it is finished, its all there – the whole counsel of God, exactly what is needed has been provided.
I found myself both broken and healed, both sad and joyful, both tired and at rest. Within the pages of the old and new testaments I found truth, timeless, unchanging truth and it all comes down to the answer of one question. Who is Jesus? Oh my goodness…the tenderness with which I now approach this questions breaks me yet again. He is The Christ, the Son of the living God, AND…He is my Savior. There is nothing more to know when this life closes out on any of us. So thankful for the life that was granted after Peter’s betrayal, after mine, after your’s. We’ve all been there, in sin. Not all return.
One final note I want to add is one of my all time favorite scriptures found in the old testament, Micah 6:8 “He hath shown thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
Whether I am at home with my children, or walking along the way, or teaching in a classroom, or find myself in any other circumstance or setting, the same is required of me. All relationships can be traced back to this most important of all relationships and all other things are to flow from it. In the grand scheme of life and eternity, we are to fulfill the requirement of Micah 6:8, to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. In order to do this we must be able to answer the question Jesus posed to Peter, “who do you say that I am?” Summation: Our answer must be more than words, it must be reflected in the life we live wherever we are and whoever we are with.