Trying, Failing, and Trying Again
I sit here on Maundy Thursday and I think about Peter. I wonder if he had any clue that afternoon that his world would be turned upside down. He certainly didn't know that someone would be thinking about him on this day nearly two thousand years later; that his cowardice would be written down in a book and read by millions over the years. Was he excited about Passover? Did the foreboding words of Jesus predicting his death haunt him in the daylight?
I see him panicked in that courtyard. The walls closing in on him. No, he doesn't know Jesus. No, he has never met the man. For God's sake, he doesn't know the man! Then the rooster crows and the shame floods over him as he remembers the words. He remembers his words: his boasts and promises. He remembers the words of his teacher: three times he will deny their relationship. How could he not break down and cry?
Peter tried. He truly did try. He was there at the courtyard. Most of the rest had already scattered. But he was there: the model of fake it 'til you make it. Only he didn't make it. Not here. Not yet. We rake Peter over the coals of that fire by which he first denied Jesus. But we are not so different. I am not so different. God bless us, we truly try and we truly fail. Perhaps we do not fail so historically. We do not necessarily deny ever knowing or loving God.
Yet denial can take other forms. Choosing our self-interest above all else is denial. Neglecting to love our neighbor is a form of denial. Even making a spectacle of our faith, of putting our theoretical righteousness on display for all to see is denial. We become the star of a reality show about how good we are and deny the fact that we are really and truly screwed up. I am fairly comfortable with the wager that any time we sin, it is a denial of the God we claim to follow and love.
The denial doesn't necessarily prove that love to be false; just immature. Like an over-confident toddler, we charge ahead only to fall flat on our face. Peter tried and he fell, but Jesus was always there to catch him. He caught Peter when the disciple stumbled upon the sea. Jesus caught him when he asked "Do you love me?" three times by another fire after those heart-rending denials. Then he told Peter to get back out there; to feed his sheep, to keep trying. Jesus always caught him. And that love eventually matured. Peter didn't become perfect, but he did grow up.
That's why I'm thinking about Peter right now. Even though his failure comes to forefront tonight, I see that sliver of hope. As we head into Good Friday in a world of violence, massive bombs, lies, hatred, and our collective failures, I'll grab every sliver of hope I can find. The shadow of the cross is dark and it should be to get to the dawn of Easter. But the hope that there is a new beginning on the other side helps us persevere. Like Peter, we try and we fail. Jesus catches us. We try again.