My sisters and I have gotten into this habit. We’re around one or both of my nephews most of the time and there are just some things that, while they’re really not vulgar, aren’t cute coming out of the mouth of a 2- or 4-year-old, so you censor a little bit. I think this is why we started to use the phrase “for Pete’s sake” so regularly. Likely out of laziness, it has been shortened to “Pete’s sake” or the simple exclamation: “Pete!” (Which we realize would make a lot more sense to the overhearer if any of us were actually talking to someone named Peter.) But when I am on duty and can be heard firmly saying either of my nephews’ names followed immediately by “Pete!” it is not because either of them were given that middle name, but is an expression of my exasperation with their behavior. And it’s actually pretty funny to hear.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about Peter. The only one I know is Simon Peter– you know, the guy usually pictured at the Heavenly Gates in white robes and sandals and with plentiful facial hair. But it is the week of Passover, Good Friday, and Easter and I have been contemplating a younger Peter. A Peter steadfast in his faith, of whom Jesus himself asked Who do you say I am? and then called him blessed. And mostly the Peter who, not long after getting so righteously angry he sliced off the ear of a man among those who had come to arrest Jesus (!), then denied he even knew Him. To save his own flesh from being attacked as the mobs attacked Jesus, or to avoid looking like the only idiot among them who wasn’t going along with the plot. And he didn’t even do this once and then feel terrible and knock it off, but three times in a row when he was asked about his association with Jesus, he said he didn’t even know the guy. In his friend’s darkest hour, no less. And he had already been admonished for being unable even to stay awake to hang out while Jesus prayed in the garden. What a jerk. I’ve been thinking about how much I’m like Peter. I don’t think I’ve ever actually said “Jesus? Noooo, I don’t know that guy,” but my actions do it all the time. I mean, all the time. I’m embarrassed even to think about the number of people I know who probably wouldn’t know what to say if someone asked them whether I even believe in God. I’m in no danger of being accused as Peter was.
Yet he’s often referred to as “Saint Peter.” After all that. The idea of “Saint Heather” actually makes me laugh out loud (it’s okay, go ahead). I don’t doubt what I believe, but I often wonder if God was playing a bit of a joke the day he thought me up. I know all about how Simon Peter the fisherman was told to “fish for men” and how I’m supposed to be following suit; how I’m supposed to be the love in the world and people are supposed to see Jesus in that and I often think, with this disposition, God? Really? But then I remember Peter. Dude got to hang out with Jesus Christ and literally walk on water and he still couldn’t get it through his big thick skull. Like me. And if it wasn’t for grace he’d have been truly sunk, in a very permanent kind of way. Because– not for lack of trying, but– we’re never going to get it through our big thick skulls and God knows it. He doesn’t just give us this thing we call grace because it’s a nice thing to do, but because He knows we need it. I’m trying to start remembering grace more often when I fail the way Peter did (all the time) instead of telling myself what a waste of space I am because of it or throwing my hands up in defeat (screw it, if I can’t do this perfectly I won’t do it at all!– I’m incredibly good at that).
So all the time, I ask: with this disposition, God? Really? and I think He’s saying: Yeah, actually. I’m using your cynical, snarly, mistrustful tendencies to make you understand that you’re never going to do it perfectly, because it’s not about you anyway. Get over yourself, for Pete’s sake.