I realize you will not actually read this letter, but it’s with a sincere and humble heart that I write it anyway.
I have been arrogant, callous, and flat out rude!
It’s no secret that you liked to talk. In fact, you’re kind of known as one who speaks before they think (dare I use the term, blowhard?). We are very similar in that area. I know that your often misdirected or oblivious exuberance came from a place of excitement and passion. As I read the accounts of your experiences, I feel your pain! More often than I’d like to admit, I have spouted off with my words in excitement only to peddle back or be shut down.
While your faux pas are very clearly documented, so is the amazing growth and maturity journey you traveled. What an example of hope you are for those of us who have tried, with passion, and failed!
You are in such a unique position of vulnerability! With the invention of instant public information transfer, this generation of people is familiar with the idea of someone’s personal life put on blast, but really, nothing is quite as extreme as what you endure. I often wonder how it feels to have billions of people read about your life, interpret, judge, and be used as examples without much of your own defense. Of course, you aren’t personally effected, as you are too consumed with the glory and majesty of the presence of God. But the fact remains, it’s really unfair! And you’re not the only one! How about all the others in your company who have had tiny bits of their lives published and printed more times than any other in all the universe and entire conclusions made about them!
It must feel good to be beyond the touch of pain, frustration, and feelings of betrayal and hurt.
Back to my apology….see, I get carried away with words, too!
There is one particular detail of a story for which I have judged you harshly. I have arrogantly placed myself in your shoes and thought I would have done it different. I’m sure you remember it well. It’s not a moment one would easily forget, even when in heaven. The details are few, but this story is one that anchors and even examples the concept of faith.
Walking on water.
I can’t say I’ve ever heard of anyone else doing it. Only you.
Here’s what we know. Your words and personal experience are only recorded in Matt. 14:22-36, although the story of Jesus walking on water is told in Luke and Mark as well. It was late. It was dark. The wind and waves were chaotic and you saw, through the chaos, what looked to be a man walking on water. That’s pretty wild. I can imagine you were a bit confused and frightened!
He knew it. In true Jesus like fashion, he calmed your fears and gave you reason to have faith.
But then, you said it. The thing I have long ridiculed you for,
Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you walking on water.
For so many years I’ve thought this was the dumbest thing to say! Who else would it be!? And if you really wanted to go to him…just get out of the dang boat!
It’s not that I didn’t think it would be hard to get out of the boat. I get it! It must have been scary, but why ask him that question?! It always sounded to dumb to me! It was placed close to the top of the list of dumb things Peter said.
Please forgive me, sir.
I’m beginning to understand it now. You were so special. You saw Jesus doing something crazy, powerful, and unique, and instead of thinking that it was a great thing reserved for only him, you wanted to do it too! You wanted everything he had, and you knew that you were special enough to have it.
In fact, that’s the most important take away from this. You, me, and all of us are special enough to have it! But you were crazy enough in that moment to believe it and ask for it.
But there is more.
I was at a big church leaders event recently and I ran down front to worship. I felt the need to dive into the moment with no distractions. I was hungry for an encounter with the Lord. As I was engulfed in the moment I had a vision. I saw myself in that boat, as if I was you! I was looking out into the water and saw Jesus there, waking on the water. Before I could catch up to the moment, I saw and heard myself shout,
Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to get out of the boat!
I shocked myself! I couldn’t believe I said it! After so many years of judgement and shame! Immediately I understood. I knew the duality of confidence and fear, of faith and doubt. I knew that if Jesus told me personally what I already knew I would feel better about jumping out.
Peter, sir, you had the privilege of literally waking with Jesus on earth (and on water!). You were guided, taught, corrected, encouraged and loved by the Good Shepherd himself! He told you that you would do greater things than you saw him do. You knew the power and love of the Messiah and you called him, friend.
All of that, and you still asked him to call you out of the boat….and I now understand in a way I never could before.
Thank you, Peter for being a model of courage with a teachable spirit. Thank you for knowing you were special so we all could know our value. Thank you for failing so we can fail. Thank you for getting out of the dang boat so we can know it’s possible. And thank you for freaking out once you were walking on the water so that we can know Jesus will IMMEDIATELY catch us if we begin to sink.
Sir, I humbly apologize for being arrogant and rude. My prayer is that I will continue to follow Jesus, as you did, out of the boat. I’m grateful for your example.