My son stepped up to the plate for his second at bat of the game. He had been struggling hitting the ball and his confidence was shaken. My wife and I prayed under our breath as the pitcher began his wind up. The pitch sped past our boy and the umpire called “Strike one!”
Stepping out of the batters’ box he practiced his swing again. After approaching the plate again, the pitcher focused on the catcher’s mitt to deliver another pitch. This time our young player swung the bat only to miss. The umpire announced “Strike two!”
Trying to encourage his confidence, I hollered, “You’re a hitter son, watch the ball hit the bat! You can do it!”
But all too soon the third and final pitch was thrown and ole’ blue yelled, “Strike three! You’re out!”
Our son lowered his head and hurried back to the dug out.
I lowered my head as well. Not at all because I was disappointed in my son, but because I know what it feels like to try to do my best and yet fall short of what my expectations are for myself. I also know the disappointment of failing the expectations of others as well. The truth is, often times it seems like I “strike out” more often than I “hit the ball” in life. No doubt you know what I am talking about as well.
Maybe you have failed — you have struck out in marriage or as a parent. You may struggle keeping a job or keeping your head above water financially. No doubt you have made some decisions that haven’t gone the way you expected. Perhaps even your desire to honor God in your life has fallen short of what you think it should be. And every time you feel you have failed it seems you hear a voice from somewhere shouting, “Strike three, you’re out!”
You know, one of Christ’s most faithful followers, a man named Peter, “struggled at the plate.” In fact, it appears that when Jesus needed Peter to come through for him the most, Peter failed. On the night that Jesus was betrayed by Judas and was falsely accused, his trusted friend and disciple Peter, was off standing by a fire denying that he even knew who Jesus was. Not once, not twice, but three times he stated that he did not know him and emphatically stated that he had had nothing to do with his Lord Jesus. We would expect for Peter to hear from Jesus, “Strike one, strike two, strike three — you’re out,” because that is what we think we are supposed to hear whenever we fail. However, something much different, something beautiful occurred.
After this willful act of disobedience, John 21 tells us that the next time the two meet, Jesus doesn’t call him out, pronounce it’s over or even send him to the dugout. Ironically Jesus demonstrates his unconditional love for Peter. Out of love, He makes breakfast for Peter and the other disciples. He even served him the breakfast that he had just prepared. Then he took some time to just speak with Peter and reiterate his love for Peter and his desire to forgive his wrong doing.
This event, so contrary to what we might expect, gives us great insight into the heart of God toward us. It is almost as if Peter and the world speaks after each denial, “Strike one, strike two, strike three” and then finally, “You’re out!”
And yet I hear Jesus calling out to Peter after each denial, “You’re loved!”
My prayer for you today is that no matter the choices you have made, please know that God has not given up on you. He is not mad at you. He loves you.
Listen to his voice, listen to his love. Regardless of what this world is telling you, and even what you are telling yourself about your failures, know this always: You are loved.
In return, God is not asking you to hit a homerun or to even get on base, he is simply asking you to respond to his love by loving him with all that you have, and all that you are.
Scott Lee is pastor at the Bethesda Worship Center.