Growing Intimately

The Father gazes into the eyes of his child as she climbs up into his lap. He cups her face in the palm of his scarred up hands with holes and says, Do you know how much I love you? So, so much.

His love swallows up everything else. The pain, the regret. Thoughts of others opinions. Scars of her past were pale in comparison to the hope of her future.

We all hunger for this kind of affirmation from God. To be settled and our souls sealed with the reminder that nothing could ever peel us away from his love.

If we are honest, struggle is our dance. Questions tumble out of our struggles as we wonder how far His love would go for us.

We accept it when we feel good about our behavior but question it when we know we have fallen short more times than we can count.

Simon Peter’s Encounter With Love

Peter wondered about the deep love of God also, especially after He experienced it when He least expected it.

Peter blew it. I mean, Blew. It. He was on the inside circle. Close enough to Jesus to be with him on his hardest night. He watched others betray Jesus. 

Swearing He never would. Like never. But He did.

Like all of us, He underestimated His flesh and overemphasized His ability.

Peter in the flash of a moment didn’t know what was in Him, but Jesus did. 

Peter had stared into the eyes of Jesus. Held by His gaze. Encouraged by His friendship, did what He thought was impossible. Walked away.

As He denied Him He heard the eerie sound of his own voice vehemently declaring, how He would never deny Him. But He did. He heard the rooster crow. He saw the Lord turn slowly and look at him.

 I don’t believe the look was a condemning one, but one of compassion for the broken place of Peter’s life. Peter chose himself first not Jesus.

And with all of this. Jesus loved Him until the end. He brought him back into His fold, close to His bosom. Cradling Peter with his love.

He wanted to reinstate the intimacy Peter had experienced with him before He blew it.

Peter drenched with sorrow was stuck in the disappointment towards himself.

“How could I?” “After all Jesus has done for me.” “I can’t believe me.” Condemnation and shame washed over Peter.

What’s Your Story?

Have you ever been there? Never in a million years would you have thought you were capable of something like turning your back on Jesus.

Realizing you actually were capable of going rogue and then some. 

The sting of a decision. The wavering of your commitment. The moment when everything became clear that life was all about you.

Peter wasn’t the first and neither were you and I. Underneath all the disappointment, and the self-condemnation, a still small voice called to you.

The voice was familiar, like the sound of many waters.

The pull was strong. Stronger than unworthiness. Stronger than blowing it. Stronger than the lies of your enemy.

The anchor of this voice held on even when we let go. His faithfulness called out when we were faithless.

Washing over the shame is the whisper of gentle words, I have forgiven you. Nothing has changed my love for you. Come home to heal.

Our pride is wounded as we realize how much of a mess we are. Grace stands waiting. 

The calling on our lives doesn’t change, it might challenge us. The reality is, God has always used messed up lives.

Humbling us with this reality, we see only God’s power is able to accomplish anything. He gently asks us to join Him for the ride.

I remember a friend of mine was about to leave after her hair appointment. We had been talking about our lives and she was encouraging me. 

God was healing and restoring my life from a very long season of brokenness.

As she stood up to walk to the door I said,” I feel like the poster child of grace.” My pride still leading the way, Suzanne stopped, laughed, and said “You ain’t that special.”

Stunned, I realized how I thought more about my brokenness than I did about the amazing grace God gives us. His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

He isn’t standing in a corner with a shocked look saying, ”I never would have expected that from her.” He knows. He knows everything about us, and still says,” I died for them.”

Maybe you feel like the poster child of grace today. 

In Need Of Grace

When we think we are the most notorious sinner around we have drifted from how good God is and focused on our own shortcomings and sin.

Of course, repentance is necessary but we don’t have to wallow in our mess. We can come boldly before the throne of grace and find help and mercy in our time of need and in our worst failures.

Forgiving ourselves helps us to reestablish the intimacy we crave with the Lord. He doesn’t hold out or hold back on us.

The minute our lips confess our wrong we are brought back into fellowship with the Lord. Remembering that we are the ones that leave the relationship, not Jesus.

He convinces us and draws us back to him. Back home. Back to love.

The enemy wanted to destroy Peter’s life by owning His heart. Keeping him preoccupied with his failure.

Satan desired to sift Peter. Sifting comes to our flesh but it can’t touch our spirit. Jesus said, Peter, ”I’ve prayed for you that your faith should fail you not.”

Peter’s faith would pull him through the trial. His flesh would be able to do nothing, only His faith.

It’s so tempting to rely on our strength, human wisdom, logic, but when everything is stripped to zero it’s all sand slipping through our fingers.

When flesh and blood possibilities come up empty and void, your confidence will be in the one you lean on. The one who knows the beginning from the end.

Do You Love Me?

As Peter was being restored Jesus said, “Peter, do you love me more than the others around me?” Peter said, “Lord, you know I do.” Jesus said, then, “Feed my sheep.”

Again, Jesus said, “Peter, Do you love me?” Peter answered,” Lord, you know I do.” Jesus again answered, “Feed my sheep.”

A third time, Jesus said “Peter, do you love me?” Pete being grieved answered again, “Lord, You know I do.” Jesus said, “Tend my sheep.”

I’m sure Peter was perplexed but Jesus wasn’t. Jesus was drilling down to the depth of love that Peter had for him.

He loved Jesus but there was still a part that He held back. Peter still isn’t ready to be completely vulnerable in this agape love.

He is comfortable in the brotherly love because He still felt a sense of control. Albeit, it was a false sense of control. 

His immaturity surfaces once again as He questions Jesus about John and what He’s doing. Jesus tells Peter to mind His own business and ministry.

We do that don’t we? As if we don’t have enough to keep us busy we get our eyes on our neighbor and wonder why God doesn’t require the same of them? 

Because it’s none of our business. We have enough to work on and work through. There are plenty of things to tend to in our own lives.

It’s easy to get our eyes on the sticky stuff in other’s lives rather than zero in on our own mess and tend our own hearts.

Growing intimately can be painful as The Holy Spirit starts probing and pruning things in our hearts. 

We are offered opportunities to grow through the broken places we experience. When brokenness is given to God love can be experienced in the place of whatever our loss might be.

The comfort of his love keeps us courageously taking another step towards his heart as we learn to trust him more. 

As we continue trusting God the natural occurrence is spiritual growth and more intimacy with him. Our heart becomes more open as His love grows deeper and deeper.

Lord, teach us to lean into your arms when we are tempted to pull away because of fear or struggle with condemnation. Help us to lay our struggles at your feet and depend on your power to live a life that is close to you. Nourish our hearts with soul food that comes through your word. May we honor you and grow closer in love with you daily.

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