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.