A little over two years ago we moved from a house and a neighborhood we loved. There are many reasons we loved that house, but for me, it was a house filled with memories of profound moments when God came to me.
It was the house where I “wept bitterly.”
“And he (Peter) went out and wept bitterly.” Luke 22:62
I spent a lot of time in that house sitting in my quiet place reading, praying and crying out to God. There were times I would be in my kitchen and God’s voice and presence would hit my heart in the sweetest way, and to my knees I would go. (That might sound weird if you’ve never experienced it but I assure you, weird is okay. If you read the Bible, weird can sometimes follow true manifestations of being aware of God’s presence.)
One particular going to my knees moment was preceded by this thought:
“Look at the example you’ve left your kids. You might as well admit defeat and give up.”
My heart felt the wave of an assault and fear and despair washed over me.
What happened next wasn’t a wave but a light rain of the most tender and tangible awareness that my Redeemer was about to speak.
“No Kandace, if you quit, that will be the example you leave your kids. A quitter. “
God’s voice, spoken with such tenderness, awakened my heart to receive His love and throw off the lie that my legacy would be that of a wife and mother who failed God, her marriage and her children. Yes, I sinned. Yes, I was experiencing painful consequences and yes, life would never be the same, but that’s exactly what God was doing through the mess.
He was changing, rearranging and redeeming.
The One who came to me that day showed me His legacy. He didn’t quit. His deepest moment of agony wasn’t because of His own sin but because He was about to experience the weight of our sin. He cried out to His Father and His sweat became as drops of blood for us.
“Under conditions of great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can rupture, thus mixing blood with perspiration. This condition has been reported in extreme instances of stress. (R. Lumpkin (1978), “The Physical Suffering of Christ,” Journal of Medical Association of Alabama, 47:8-10.)
I love Jesus for this and when I meditate on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and keep my heart looking long enough, I become undone with what this Man did for us.
Such love, such pain, such resolve.
“Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave the world and return to His Father. He had loved His disciples during His ministry on earth, and now He loved them to the very end. (John 13:1, NLT).
Jesus didn’t give up. Even now, He’s praying that we won’t give up either.
His perspective from the view of eternity is so much bigger than moments that seek to define us. Some of us take a little longer to see what He sees, even when we think we do and find out we don’t.
When Peter denied Christ, he wept bitterly. Only Peter knows exactly what he was thinking in those moments after his words of “I don’t know Him.” Jesus told him it was going to happen and yet, Peter was so self-assured that he thought Jesus didn’t understand just how much he loved Him.
Peter wept bitterly and everything changed. If Jesus had left him alone with his thoughts, Peter would have most likely died an old man with some fishing trophies. I can only imagine Jesus seeing Peter’s thoughts. I have to believe that Jesus’s inner dialogue sounded something like:
“Oh no Peter, we’re not going there. There’s no way I am going to leave you alone in this and watch you wallow in sorrow and shame. You’re mine and I am going to use this to give you the power I wanted to give you but couldn’t because you weren’t ready. Though you confessed who I was, you couldn’t see who you were. All self-sufficiency had to go, all confidence in your own abilities had to crumble, and all fear had to be confronted in my perfect love for you, not your weak love for me. We had to start over on the right foot. Here we go.”
Peter’s bitter tears softened the soil of his own heart. Peter’s repentance didn’t make him perfect; it only opened up the way for genuine love to grow for the One who didn’t give up on him. Peter remained undone by His friend’s love until he also died on a cross. The love story between Jesus and Peter moves my heart deeply.
I don’t know where you find yourself on this 2018 Valentine’s Day, but whether you’re married of single, there’s One who loves you with perfect love and He doesn’t plan to give up on you. That love will melt away every fear and will one day take away your every tear forever. The love of Jesus restores us in the same way it did Peter. And like Peter, we rise up and love others in the same way we’ve been loved. Only by grace and for His glory.
See, love isn’t momentary sentiments and a rush of emotion that wanes when the harshness of life crashes up against us. Love is so much greater. Love draws near when we’re groaning deep within for our True Love to come. Even as Jesus came after Peter when he felt least deserving, Jesus came after us.
“This is love: not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10, NIV).