Thrive: Vulnerability and Risk – Amy Shorner-Johnson

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Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before all of them, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
—Matthew 26:69-75

Who among us hasn’t tried to push the attention away from ourselves when we are afraid? When the teacher starts calling names and the answer seems evasive? When the boss looks for someone to hold accountable? When your child screams all the wrong words in the crowded department store?

Peter’s story of denial is often referred to in a way that invites us to shake our heads. Yet I wonder if the story is there to remind us of our vulnerability. Perhaps it is there to encourage us to be compassionate toward ourselves and others. Peter’s denials must have been self-evident for, when the rooster crowed, he began to remember the words Jesus had spoken. But what did Peter remember later? What did he remember when he looked back on this time as Peter traveled to share the good news after Jesus had risen?

I picture Peter reminiscing about Jesus’ prediction, recalling the sting the words carried as he heard them, yet marveling that they both stayed to finish the sacred meal and that it was still a sacred time. And Peter would remember later when the grieving Jesus begged him to stay in the garden because his presence was still valued. Their friendship went deeper than the denial, and my guess is that the experience emboldened Peter in his ministry.

Jesus reminds us again and again with his actions that relationships worth having always involve forgiveness and grace. Our deepest relationships require vulnerability and risk. We may make mistakes out of fear or anger. But Jesus always extends grace to us.

How can we practice grace that says our relationships are more important that momentary actions? How can we be more forgiving of ourselves and each other, acknowledging the courage it takes and the risk involved? Might we, too, find that taking a risk is worth the possibility of strengthening the relationships we have and finding ourselves spiritually enriched along the way.

Amy Shorner-Johnson_325Amy Shorner-Johnson is the assistant chaplain at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. She is a wife to Kevin, a mom to Leah and Joel, and a friend to a cherished many both near and far. She enjoys listening to students and continuing to learn in a college setting, as well as trying to bring a taste of the south into a northern state.

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