My favorite of the Christian resurrection stories is the story when Jesus met his disciples on the shore. The disciples, who had been fishermen prior to Jesus’ calling them to ministry, had returned to fishing after the crucifixion, and they were not having much success in their new “old” way of life; in the story someone from the shore yelled out to them, “cast your net from the other side of the vessel” and not thinking that it would do any good, the disciples followed the direction anyway, and when they did they could barely pull the net from the sea because there were so many fish. But, this is not the part of the story that I love.
The disciples figured out that the man calling from the shore was Jesus; he was appearing to them yet again after his resurrection, and they jumped from the fishing boat and joined him on the shore. Jesus took some of the fish that they had caught and made breakfast for them. Although there are many lessons in this story my favorite part comes after breakfast when Jesus has a conversation with Peter. Remember, prior to the crucifixion, Jesus had told Peter that he (Peter) would deny him (Jesus) three times before morning; Peter who was very sure of his faith was incensed that Jesus would think so; yet, as the story goes, Peter did deny the Christ three times in the last night of Jesus’ life; Peter’s guilt made him blind in understanding the value of the resurrection.
Jesus saw Peter’s guilt and he asked him. “Peter, do you love me?” and Peter replied, “Yes Lord”, and Jesus said “feed my sheep”. Jesus then asked Peter again, “Peter do you love me?” and Peter again answered, “Yes Lord”, and Jesus said, “tend my sheep”, and then a third time Jesus said to Peter, “Peter do you love me” and in a distraught sort of way Peter answered a third time, “You know that I love you lord” and Jesus replied for the final time, “then feed my sheep.”
It is within this story that Jesus makes it perfectly clear that he is giving all of mankind permission to be healed. I like the concept of healing so much more than the idea of forgiveness; in healing there is a sense of “I own this outcome” and in forgiveness it is so much more about giving the other person all of my power, both in being the cause of my “sin” and in getting past that “sin”. Jesus did not ask Peter to explain himself; Jesus’ purpose was not to cause Peter greater guilt, but instead to help Peter to understand that he could release himself from his guilt, simply by understanding his priority of love of himself and others.
This is not to say that Peter did not fail. Of course Peter failed. But Jesus was not one to focus on failure. And I don’t think that Jesus asks his followers to focus on failure either; I am convinced that Jesus’ message is one of “moving on to the better you.” If the better “me” were the norm, than spiritual growth would not be necessary; and yet this statement does not mean that I am broken or unworthy, it simply means that like all children I must grow. Peter grew in his ministry with the knowledge that he had failed and yet he had also moved on; my hope is that Peter would then be able to allow his students the same freedom. My question is, can I afford the people in my life a chance to heal?
The trick it seems is in understanding that there is still a truth to the pain caused by poor action. I must realize that I have affected someone by my actions, and I must take ownership and command of that action. In the 12 Steps this action is taken when I admit to harm, and then seek out those whom I have harmed in order to make amends. Making amends gives me the ability to move on; but, and this is a big caveat, I must not create further problems when cleaning up the first problem.
Peter may have felt the need to deny his failure but Christ did not support that need; instead Christ offered Peter three opportunities to profess his love; the same amount of times that Peter had denied him. When we encounter those whom we have harmed, we cannot expect for them to give us Jesus’ understanding; however, we can approach them with Jesus’ acceptance of ourselves and of them; more importantly we can give them as many opportunities to profess their love to us as we feel they have harmed us.
In the past couple of weeks the power of healing has been a bright spot in understanding for me. C.S. Lewis once wrote, and I paraphrase, “just because one has discovered that they are on the wrong path, does not mean that they are now where they want to be.” In other words, if I am driving to a destination north of my home and I enter the highway going south and drive for some miles it will take more than my recognition of my mistake to amend those miles once I turn the car around. It is in the journey back toward my original location that healing takes place; of course unlike a physical journey such as and errant car ride, a spiritual journey probably will never take one back to the origination point; the importance of this is, give yourself, and others, the time to heal from their error, and in that time not only will all parties heal they will also find the destination of forgiveness.
The story on the shore helps us to understand that our wrong actions do not create us; however, our reactions to our wrong actions do. We are offered the opportunity to feel our guilt, own our “sin”, and make corrective actions. Jesus basically said feed those who may have harmed you and give them the occasion to remember that they love you. Most of us do not feel harmed by random people on the street; we merely react to those people based on a hurt that we carry with us. Healing from our hurts, and allowing others to heal from their hurts will give us a much smoother ride once we realize that we were driving south and our destination was in the north.