“Go Back” or “Follow Me” – Which Do You Choose?

CHILD-BEAUTY_141615245694I don’t watch the show but it happened to come on after another program I do watch.  I’ll be honest, it was sort of like watching a train wreck.  As horrified as I was I just couldn’t seem to make myself turn the channel.  It was the reality show about young children who compete in beauty pageants.  Not usually my kind of TV show, but on this day I sat and watched the whole hour.  Here’s what had me hooked…  In this particular episode (not pictured), they introduced a young woman, I believe she was in her early 20’s.  She was initially introduced as one of the coaches or advisers for one of the young contestants.  They showed her giving instructions to the little girl on how to walk and how to perform.  However it wasn’t long into the episode that they revealed that this coach was also a competitor.  This particular contest was very unusual in that it had no upper age limit.  So, having grown up in the child pageant world, this young woman entered as a contestant as well as a coach.

At one point they interviewed this young woman’s mother.  She said something to the effect of, “I had hoped by this point in her life we would be looking at entering her children into these contests, not her.  But, oh well… this is where we’re at.”  (The young woman was not married and did not have any children.)

The show ends with the suspenseful crowning of the winners in multiple categories. And who is crowned “Best Overall?”  …of course it was this young woman.  She was the only competitor over the age of 12 and yet she proudly stood up on the stage to receive her crown.  Next to her stood all the runners up.  She towered over all of them by more than a foot.  It was so sad, such a pathetic sight.  This woman’s potential was far beyond a children’s beauty pageant but she didn’t see it.  She went back to what she knew, what was comfortable to her.  I can only assume she was afraid to step out into the life and purpose that God had for her to live.  I was embarrassed for her to be so proud to receive that crown.  It was worthless and meaningless compared to what she had to gain by stepping out into her life.

I recently read John 21.  In that chapter we see someone else who went back to what he knew, to the life that was comfortable, not seeing his full potential.  That someone is Peter.  Yes, the same Peter who walked on water.  The same Peter who confessed that Jesus was Lord and Savior before any of his fellow disciples had the courage to do so.  The same Peter that said he would never leave Jesus’ side – he would always defend him.  Enter, Peter’s failure.  It was right after that bold statement of Peter that he was put to the test and he failed.  He denied ever knowing Jesus!  And he was heartbroken.  He had blown it – big time.

It’s in John 21 where we see the impact that Peter’s failure had on him.  He’s back in the fishing boat.  He’s not spreading the news of Jesus’ resurrection.  He’s not telling about all the miracles he witnessed.  He went back to what he knew.  He went back to his old life as a fisherman.  I can only imagine the heartbreak and turmoil swirling in his soul that caused him to go back to that life.  Surely he must have thought there would be no use for him in God’s kingdom.

While he’s in that boat, no doubt drowning in his sea of self-deprecation, failure, and woe Someone calls to him from the shore, “Have you caught any fish?”  Peter has to admit that even at fishing he’s a failure!  “No,” he replies.  Then the One on the shore says, “Put your nets on the other side of the boat.”  As Peter and his fellow fisherman do so, their nets become full of fish.  John then turns to Peter and says, “That’s the Lord!”  Peter wastes no time with the fish.  He jumps in the water and swims to shore to be with his Savior.

Once on the shore, Jesus has an amazing interchange with Peter.  Three times He asks him, “Do you love me?”  Three times… the same amount of times that Peter had denied Him.  He graciously gave Peter the opportunity to be restored.  He knew Peter’s sin, but He also knew Peter’s heart.  And with each answer that Peter gave, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” Jesus commissioned him to be the rock upon which His church would be built.  He did not have to go back to fishing.  He had a purpose.  He had a role in the kingdom of God.  All he had to do was follow Jesus.

It’s the end of this chapter that I love the most.  After Jesus’ declaration of Peter’s purpose, Peter turns and sees John walking behind them.  He asks Jesus, “What about him?”  Jesus basically tells Peter, it’s none of your business what I do with John, we’re talking about you right now.  I used to think that this was an indication of Peter’s competitiveness.  That he was wanting to know what Jesus was going to call John to do in comparison with what He had called Peter to do.  But recently I had another take.  John was known as “the disciple Jesus loved most.”  Granted, John gave himself that title throughout his book, but scholars agree he was very close to Jesus.  He was the one reclining with him, leaning up against his chest on the night of the last supper.  They were close.  I now wonder if Peter was asking about John because he know how much the Lord loved John.  In other words, was Peter asking, “Are you sure you want me to do this?  I know how much you love him and he didn’t screw up?”  Either way Jesus’ response to Peter was – “Follow Me.”

I guess I’ll have to ask Peter in heaven what he meant with his question to Jesus.  But in the meantime I identify so much with his failure and with his turmoil.  I understand his desire to want to go back to fishing.  I get what that must have felt like to think, “I’m out.  He’s going to use someone else.”  BUT…once we know that we are called by God for a definite purpose – even if we don’t know exactly what it is yet – we cannot go back.  We cannot stand on a stage amongst children proudly accepting our worthless crown when our Savior is beckoning us to “Follow HIM!”  We can’t go back to our former lives as fisherman barely eking out an existence when the God of the universe is calling us to join with Him in the furtherance of His kingdom.

Lord, forgive me for the times I have gotten caught up in my own failures.  Give me the courage to take the steps I need to take to follow you rather than going back to what is comfortable for me or what may feel safe to me.  You are my comfort.  You are my safety.  I want what you want for me, Lord.  Give me the courage of your Holy Spirit to follow you.  Thank you Jesus, for the example of Peter and for loving us always even when we fail.  I love you, Lord!  In your most precious name, amen.

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