Have you ever made a mistake and wished you could go back and make it right? Maybe you said something you shouldn’t have, or didn’t say something when you should have. That sickening feeling of regret.
I remember seeing a girl standing alone the first day of junior high. She wore different clothes, thick glasses and had a painfully thin frame. She was an easy target for kids dealing with their own identity issues by being bullies.
People jostled her as they sped past and I felt a flicker of compassion, then realized I needed to find my first class, so off I went.
Later, I noticed her at the edge of the group waiting to get into our class. I heard a couple of kids make fun of her big clunky shoes and thick glasses. Asking if her hair was clean, and if that smell was coming from her… know what I did? Absolutely nothing. I just stood there.
I’m ashamed to admit I was thankful they were picking on her and not me because I was wearing clunky shoes, thick glasses and had sweated during PE that morning, too. I thought of the good fortune to not be the one being picked on. I didn’t want to mess that up by drawing attention to myself.
The teacher opened the door, everyone filed in to their seats. The girl walked in looking like a beaten puppy. My relief changed to a horrible feeling of shame because I had done nothing.
It reminds me of Mark 14:72 when it describes how Peter felt when he realized that he had denied Jesus three times. There’s no comparison to the shame I felt and what Peter must have felt when it says, “And he broke down and wept.”
But you know what? There is more to both of these stories. God is never afraid of our sin or mistakes. When we’ve had the best of intentions, and we still mess up, God always has a plan to restore relationship and give us another chance.
Let’s jump ahead to John 21:15-17. This scene takes place awhile after the resurrection, on a beach after everyone has finished eating a breakfast Jesus prepared:
Jesus called Peter aside to speak to him privately, and asked him three times, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
There is something inside each of us that longs for a do-over when we feel shame for having denied Christ. Jesus knew that shame would be a stumbling block to keep Peter back from the destiny God had planned for him. Peter needed to know he was forgiven and restoration of that relationship had to take place for him to move forward.
Three denials. Three questions that restored Peter with the assurance that Jesus had not only forgiven him, but entrusted him with the very precious duty of feeding His lambs, caring for and feeding His sheep. Peter got another chance to do it right. Another chance to step back into the fullness of the life and destiny God always intended. Jesus gives each of us that same opportunity when we hear Him ask us the same question, “Do you love me?”
Back in junior high, sadly, it wasn’t very long before I got another chance to do the right thing. At the end of that first day, when everyone was leaving school, I found myself looking for the girl with clunky shoes and big glasses. I wanted to apologize for my cowardice earlier. Then I saw her, facing three kids who were again making fun of her. I felt something rise up in me as I stormed over to where they stood. I planted myself right next to her, threw my arm over her shoulders and yelled at those meanies, “Hey! You leave her alone! She’s my friend!” As they walked off, now tossing comments at me, I turned and said, “Hi, I’m your new friend! My name is Mikki, what’s yours?”
It was a chance to do it right, and when she smiled, flashed her braces and pushed up her glasses, I knew it was going to be a good year.
God loves us so much He doesn’t want us to ever give up on our relationship with Him or on ourselves.
No matter how bad we mess up, He lifts us up and asks the question, “Do you love me?”
The Rev. Mikki Jones co-pastors Grace Christian Center wth her husband, the Rev. Dave Jones. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should call Catherine Hicks at 609-526-8312 or email her at email@example.com