It was a Friday night when I inadvertently tangled myself in my daughter’s drama.
Anna’s friend was staying the night. She was this cute thing. Light brown braids, little button nose, bright eyes, tiny frame and a high pitched voice. The girl was always polite, but I noticed that she watched me closely and it made me uneasy.
Usually, on Saturday mornings we eat breakfast at church, help to clean the building and plan childcare for the following day. Anna comes and always brings her overnight guests. She enjoys the pancakes and bacon, a treat for our usually health conscious family. She loves to see her other friends and play guitar with them afterward. This Friday, though, she said, “Mom, do we have to go to the breakfast tomorrow?” It turned out that Anna’s friend had told her that our family is really religious. My daughter didn’t want to confirm that by going to church on Saturday.
Religious. I have never liked that word. It divides. You are religious; we are not. She is really religious. Not a compliment. It reeks of rules, forms, and holier than thou. It brings to mind uptight, self-righteous people. It is everything I don’t want to have or be. Apparently, my daughter feels the same.
So, this tug of war began in me. One side wanted to stay home because we are NOT religious. The other wanted to go because I love that Saturday morning time. And there I stood in the kitchen, with Anna and her friend, and my stomach in a knot. Do we stay or do we go?
How can a little comment from this young girl affect me so much? I wondered. Then I remembered Peter.
During the Lord’s trial before the Romans crucified him, Peter was in the courtyard. As he stood by the fire, a servant girl said, “This man was with Him too.” (Luke 22:56). This little comment catapulted Peter into famous failure.
Bold, brazen, confident Peter, who did love the Lord, was undone there at the feet of a servant girl, and I looked over at my daughter’s friend and thought Little girl, why should I care more about your opinion than my Christ and the church? Then I realized how fragile I am, how fragile we all are, and how much I care about the opinions of others.
For Peter, that comment from the servant girl was like a can opener, click, turn, turn, turn until what was inside of him was exposed and poured out, and what came out of Peter was denial in the form of a lie. “I am not.” He said. Then he repeated it two more times.
But, Peter needed that failure. Desperately. He had been self-deceived. “Even if I must die with You, I will by no means deny You,” he had boldly proclaimed (Matthew 26:35). “Let us also go, that we may die with him,” is what Thomas said when the Lord was going to raise Lazarus, and I imagine Peter was of the same mind (John 11:16). Even moments before his encounter with that servant girl, brave Peter had tried to protect the Lord and cut off someone’s ear.
But it is in the quiet moments, when our guard is down, that the little servant girls come.
We need them, and so does the Lord. Yes, we fall at their feet, we break a bit, and we see things about ourselves we would rather not. But eventually, the Lord comes. For Peter, the bitter tears he wept outside the courtyard were not the end.
Later, after he resurrected, the Lord appeared to Peter. Jesus didn’t wash his feet this time. He cooked him fish for breakfast, and by the morning fire asked him a question. The same question. Three times. “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter answered truthfully, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love you.” (John 21:15-17). And in that exchange with the Lord, by that warm fire, with those simple words, the Lord restored Peter. He was now ready to receive the Holy Spirit and to care for others. He was no longer so bold, confident, or proud in himself. Yes, he loved the Lord, but he no longer believed he loved him more or better than others.
I stood in my kitchen with my daughter and her little friend still looking up at me, and the tangles inside began to loosen. Yes, I am fragile. Yes, I over-care for others’ opinions of me. It is true. But I am not religious. I just love the Lord.
“Yes dear, you can stay home tomorrow and sleep in,” I said. “If you need anything you can call. I will be at church eating breakfast.”
And with those words, I released her to find her own peace, as I had found mine.