The Catholic Church has a schedule of readings called the lectionary (as do many other churches). The lectionary reading for this past Sunday was Luke 9:28-36, Luke’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus.
28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen. (ESV)
Crazy things are happening–Jesus is dazzling white, his face shining like the son, his clothes whiter than any launderer could bleach them, as bright as lightning. Two of the most important men in the history of God’s people, Moses and Elijah, are standing there, conversing with Jesus.
It is one of the most intense times in Jesus’s earthly life, and Peter can’t help but put his two cents in. He has this great plan that gets interrupted by the voice of God the Father.
I get Peter. He is a lot like me, speaking before thinking things all the way through. I’ll bet he would consider himself an external processor. It got him rebuked more than a few times by Jesus, but it was for his good. He wasn’t afraid to be himself.
Sometimes, I am afraid to be myself. I talk a lot, about things that nobody cares about and about things that a lot of people care about. When I talk about grammar or etymologies of interesting words, I don’t really offend many people. When I talk about religion or politics, I can easily say things I haven’t thought all the way through or don’t have every piece right. Sometimes I am afraid that if I say something wrong, people will not want to speak to me again, or that I am misrepresenting the truth. I want to be truthful and I want to be consistent, but for an external processor like me it takes a lot of trial and error, and a lot of that in the public square (i.e. social media).
I am learning to have grace with myself, but it’s hard. I do try to think about the things I say or post, wanting them to come from a place of charity and wisdom, but sometimes people are going to get offended or annoyed by what I’m saying. I wonder if God gets offended or annoyed by what I’m saying…and then I have anxiety about whether I should say anything at all.
This is the beauty of the life of the saints–they paint a picture of the love of God for me, wounded and broken as I am. Jesus valued Peter so much, loud mouth and all. He valued and loved him to the point of letting this externally-processing fisherman be the head of his church.
Sunday, the lectionary takes us to Peter saying silly things in front of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. But Monday, we have the commemoration of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle. Even if you’re not Catholic, I hope you can appreciate the significance of this, that one day Peter is rebuked for his over-eagerness to please, and the next day the legacy of the Church he helped lead is celebrated.
It gives me hope, this timing. It gives me hope that even with all the things I say, God is still shaping me for a purpose. That he loves me even when I stick my foot in my mouth. That he encourages me to think out loud, because he made me this way.
I pray that I am willing to be vulnerable and share the things I am learning, ask the questions that pose themselves in my mind. I pray that you, too, would be willing to make yourself vulnerable. That’s where we learn. Yes, we will make mistakes, but we can rest in the kindness of God to gently correct us and to comfort us when others say we have pushed things too far.
The Lord keeps urging me to keep writing and keeps encouraging me that I am safe with him with these words: Be not afraid. I am with you, I am for you, and I am mighty to save.
May you know that today, too.
But when that girl smiles, let me tell you–my heart becomes a puddle of love right then and there.
Babies start turning up the corners of their mouths in what we might call a smile from their earliest days. But usually that’s just their expression when they are able to get gas to move through their system. And even though it’s physiological and not the emotional response all humans look for, it’s still cute. I definitely tried to catch a picture of one of those gas-smiles and pass it off as “baby’s first smile.”
Every child is different, but with my three kids, somewhere between two and three months old, something changes. I’ll be chatting it up with Lucy while she is on the changing table, asking her about her night’s sleep or what she dreamed about, and then it happens. We lock eyes and I can’t help but smile–she is so beautiful! so tiny! so amazing! Her eyes squint in delight and she SMILES BACK AT ME. And I know that she means it, that she sees me and is so glad to see me. This isn’t just the gas-smile. This is a real, heartfelt smile, and it communicates her little baby heart of love to me. My heart goes into all sorts of flutters. Warm, ooey-gooey love splashes and saturates my heart. Yes, I have loved her since I found out she was growing inside me, but this is a dynamic–a dynamic of mutual love–that sets my heart on fire and fills me with a special joy. She loves me! She loves me back!
Yes, right now she loves me because I carried her for nine months. My voice is the one she knows best because she grew inside me and heard everything I did. I am the one who snuggles her, feeds her, wipes up her spit-up, changes her diapers, bathes her. She only knows that I am the one who takes care of her and she loves me for it. (She loves her daddy the same way, too.)
When I smile and she smiles back, it is like the sun is shining for the first time, truly. It makes me think of how the heart of God responds when I smile back at him. And then I think, well, of course! He has expressed this a little through John the Elder in 1 John 4:19–We love because he first loved us–and through the prophet Zephaniah in Zephaniah 3:17.
We smile at him because he smiled at us first.
And I think about his great love for me. God has been smiling at me for a long time, full of delight and love. I have been learning who he is, listening for the sound of his voice like Lucy has been learning to recognize mine. I have been receiving his care and surviving only because he takes such good care of me. And as we interact, he smiles over me and asks me about my night’s sleep, about the dreams I had. And all the while he is smiling over me. He sings little beautiful songs as he carries me throughout my day, like a happy momma caring for her precious baby.
And he cares for me for a long time before I can smile back. BUT WHEN I DO?? I can only imagine that his heart responds a little like mine with Lucy. What world of love is opened to us when I smile back at him? When I love him back in the little ways that I know how to?
Peter denied Jesus three times and then Jesus died. His heart carried around the weight of abandoning his best friend in the hardest time in Jesus’ life. In John 21, even though he has seen the risen Jesus, Peter goes back to fishing. Maybe he was just hungry or maybe he was seeking the solace of the waves, remembering when he walked on water with his best friend, or the time when Jesus calmed the storm.
He and his friends aren’t catching anything, and they hear a voice from the shore. “Children, have you any food?” And like children, they answer, “No.” Maybe they thought it was a beggar asking for scraps. But when person on the shore tells them to lower their nets on the other side of the boat, and they have so much provision that the nets start breaking, John finally gets it and tells Peter, “It’s Jesus!”
Peter goes wild, a little, I imagine, like a child weepy and desperate to see his mother after a long absence. He puts his clothes back on and dives into the water, swimming, swimming. He just has to be with Jesus. I imagine he was probably crying the whole way. In the water. Up on the shore. Into Jesus’ arms.
Jesus cooks them breakfast (like a good mama would for her babies). And after breakfast, he and Peter go for a walk. Three times Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Now, I have heard the sermons on the three different words Jesus uses to ask Peter and I know that this is commonly referred to as the “reinstatement of Peter.” Yes, I think all those things are good. But I can’t help but think about how excited Jesus was to finally have a conversation with Peter where they could talk about loving each other.
“Peter, do you love me?” Jesus asks a first time.
“Yes, you know I do,” answers Peter. I wonder if Jesus’s heart feels like mine when Lucy and I lock eyes on the changing table.
“Peter, do you love me?” Jesus asks a second time.
“Yes, Jesus, you know I do,” answers Peter. I wonder if Jesus’s heart feels like mine when Lucy’s eyes start to squint.
“Peter, do you love me?” Jesus asks a third time.
Peter gets a little huffy, grieved that maybe Jesus doesn’t believe him. But he still boldly declares, “Yes, Lord–you know all things, and you know that I love you!”
What delight flooded Jesus’s heart at that moment? What does it do to the heart of God to hear his little beloved one say to him, “I love you, too”?
When Lucy smiles at me–a true and genuine smile–because I have loved her and smiled at her and cared for her–what heights of joy I experience! My little girl loves me back!
I love God because he loves me first. I smile at God because he smiles at me first. Today, I want my heart to smile up at Jesus as he takes care of me, letting that little smile say to him, “Lord, you know all things, and you know that I love you!”
My kids are really in to playing hide-and-go-seek. They shut themselves in the bathroom and count to ten (“Count slower!” I tell them), then burst out of the door with “Ready or not, here I come!” or some version of that mixed up with giggles.
The 3-year-old is getting really good at the idea of the game–that she closets herself away while I hide and then she comes and finds me. Her little brother only knows one aspect of the game–find Mommy. He isn’t good at hiding (I’ve tried hiding him with me, but he makes too much noise), and the waiting for the counting to finish is a challenge. But he’s good at finding me.
I love how I have to hide myself in obvious places around our home. I love how if it’s taken awhile for them to find me, I have to call out, “Hello?!” until they follow the sound of my voice. I love how they burst into giggles and shrieks when they finally find me. It delights my heart so much for them to enjoy finding me.
“Again? Again?” they beg. And I usually can’t help but oblige. (Unless we’ve already done it 10 times. Then I can usually tell them “no.”)
One particular go-round, I was hiding rather conspicuously in the front hall by the shoe cubby, but it was taking them a long time to find me. I found my anticipation at seeing the joy on their faces growing. I couldn’t wait for them to find me. “Hello?!” I called out. “Hello?!”
Brennan rounded the corner first. Lily was hot on his heels. They squealed! “You found me!” I said, the joy in my heart so great I could barely stand it. Suddenly it hit me–God loves to hide from me SO THAT I can search him out. He gets as much of a kick out of it as I do hiding from my kids. I want them to find me–that’s why I drop big vocal clues. He wants me to find him. It’s crazy how much affection surges in my heart for God when I think about it this way.
Like Graham Cooke says, God hides in plain sight. He makes sure his elbows are sticking out behind the couch or that his foot doesn’t completely go behind the bookshelf. He wants to be easily accessible to me.
Sometimes I don’t find him as easily as I once did. Sometimes I feel like we were playing a fun game of hide-and-go-seek when the lights get turned off without warning. But even though it might get harder to find him or see him when I’m searching, these verses hang in my heart. I try to read them, cherish them, listen to them with the ears of a little kid playing hide-and-go-seek with her royal-but-not-too-proper-for-games father.
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings to search it out.
from Proverbs 25:2
So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you;
Seek, and you will find;
Knock, and it will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives,
and he who seeks finds,
and to him who knocks it will be opened…
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!
from Luke 11
So here’s your assignment for the week (and I promise to do it to)–
Tell God you want to play hide-and-go-seek with him. See what he has to show you. He might just be hiding in plain sight, saying “Hello?!” hoping that you’ll look for him.