In recent days i’ve been thinking a lot about the power we have in forgiving ourselves. Unless we’re able to embrace God’s grace and mercy in wiping the slate clean for us and walk freely forward without looking back at our own failures, we’ll never be able to step fully into all that God has for us.

I keep going back to Peter’s story in the gospels. The ‘head boy’ of Jesus’ disciples who then falls so epically in denying Jesus just before His death… we all know the story. The bit of the story that i can’t get out of my head is the series of events after Jesus has risen from the dead.

We get a little hint that all’s not well in Peter’s heart when Jesus speaks to the ladies at the tomb to ‘Go and tell the disciples and Peter’ (Mark 16:7) about the resurrection. Why would Jesus feel the need to say ‘and Peter’ when Peter was one of the disciples – and arguably one of the most important at that? Had Peter been voted out of the discipleship group? – we get no indication from that in scripture. Maybe Jesus knew that Peter would need special encouragement after such a deep failure, to see himself again as the person he’d been called and created to be. Maybe Jesus wanted Peter to know that He still believed in him, that He still wanted him in his original role, even after the betrayal.

The next clue that we get that Peter’s heart is hurting is after Jesus has appeared to him and the disciples. Jesus turns up and shows the disciples that everything He ever said and claimed was true and that He really is God. WOAH!!! Time to throw a party! Jesus is alive and is GOD! But Peter does’t throw a party. In John 21 we see that knowing everything he now knows, Peter decides to go back to his old job – ‘I’m going out to fish’ (John 21:3). Now what on earth would make him do a thing like that? This is the same Peter who once said there’d be nowhere to go outside of Jesus because He ‘holds the words of life’ (John 6:68). Why’s he now walking away from Jesus who’s just had His most victorious moment? I wonder if it’s because Peter couldn’t shake off his sense of disappointment in himself. I wonder if it’s because He couldn’t look at Jesus without seeing his own worst and lowest moment and he couldn’t take the pain of that. I wonder if Peter walked away not so much because he was seeing Jesus differently, but because he was seeing himself differently – because he no longer felt worthy of his ‘head boy’ status but now was struggling with such a sense of unworthiness because of his failure that he decided to walk away.

But here’s the beautiful thing – Jesus was not disappointed with Peter. Disappointment requires for you to have had higher expectations of someone than what actually happens. But Jesus had accurate expectations of Peter right from the beginning. He knew that Peter was going to fail dramatically even when He called him. He knew on the night it happened and so warned Peter that ‘“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31+32) We often read these verses thinking that when Jesus is praying for Simon’s faith not to fail, He’s praying that Peter won’t betray Him – but i don’t think that’s what Jesus is getting at at all because in the very next sentence, Jesus makes it clear that Peter will fail, but will then turn back. I think the ‘faith’ that Jesus is praying for is not the faith that stops the mistake, but the faith that helps us to continue believing in His words declared over us, in what He’s called us to be after the mistake is made so we’re able to turn back and strengthen others. Listen up: Jesus is not disappointed in you when you fail, because His expectations of you have always been 100% accurate, so He saw what was coming even when He called you. What He’s drawing you towards and strengthening you for is the ability to accept His grace over you, for the courageous faith to believe Him even when you no longer feel like a person worthy to carry His promises. The power to ‘turn back and strengthen the brothers’ is the power to forgive yourself and believe Jesus’ words over you again.

In one of the most tender moments of the gospels, the God of the universe cooks His disciples breakfast so that He can help one of His friends back to a place of faith again (John 21). Jesus calls Peter back from his sorry fishing expedition so that He can restore him to the fullness of his call and so that he can step freely into the destiny marked out for him. I wonder how many of us need to accept Jesus’ invitation to breakfast this morning? I wonder how many of us need to invite Holy Spirit to empower us to walk free from the shame of the past? Let Him in today – He cannot wait to break off the chains of your self-disappointment so you’re able to run again with full abandon the race marked out for you.

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There are some friends that pull you towards another world. Friends that stir in you a hunger for something more, something other, something altogether more beautiful than the world you’re living in. Talking to them awakens in you the cry for the life you’ve always wanted, the life you were created to live – even if you were unaware of it before. This week i have the privilege of spending time with just such a friend. Talking to him of miracles and encounters and heavenly resource and Kingdom breakout tugs at my heart for more than i’ve settled for.

I don’t want to build my life simply with routines to inform me about another world (which is so easily what ‘spiritual disciplines’ can be reduced to), i want to build my life with routines that enter me into that world.

For whether i know it or not, that other world, that upside down Kingdom is coexistent with and in fact dominant over the world i’m living in. And if i want to, if i allow the cry of my heart to bubble up, if i listen to the quiet but determined invitation offered to me, i can experience in the here and now the vibrancy and colour of that Kingdom as it becomes my most perceived reality. Who are you spending your time with? Find friends who will help you listen to your heart cry. Put into your life-diet books and video clips and blog posts and anything else that will tug at you until you cannot ignore the life you were always created to live. ‘Seek the things that are above where Christ is seated… set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth’ (Colossians 3:1+2) – notice Paul isn’t saying ‘set your heart and mind on Jesus’ (although that’s a great thing to do!), but he’s saying ‘fill your heart and mind with the things, the realities of heaven where Christ is’. Let’s live from heaven’s technicolor reality and let the pale greys of earth fade away.

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