Are you tired of adulting? Maybe you feel that way when it’s time to pay the bills, cook the supper, change the diaper, clean the house and in general be the one in charge.
Getting to the adulting stage is a journey. We go through so many baby steps to get there, including the first time we drive off in the car, or when we leave for college, get our first apartment and first “real” job. Equally important are the less visible milestones of going through our first heartbreak, big failure, or disillusionment with life.
Everyone’s path to adulting is different. I don’t think I truly felt like an adult until both my parents had passed away and I realized that I was the older generation. I still wish I could go lie on my mother’s couch and let her cook supper for me!
As parents, we rejoice with our children as they navigate the waters to maturity. Sometimes we struggle, however, because we see where we want them to be long before they are ready to be there. Sitting back and letting them make their own mistakes is not always easy.
Growing in our spiritual life is like our journey to become an adult. Instead of a nice straight path, it involves ups and downs, with twists and turns along the way. And the same way we envision the potential in our own children, God knows where He wants us to be in life. Getting there often involves years of transitions, detours and risks.
Simon Peter had a spiritual journey that had its ups and downs. When we first meet him, he is fishing with his brother Andrew. I imagine him as big and burly, but so open and emotional that you couldn’t help but love him. If Jesus had not come along, he would have lived his life in anonymity, raising a passel of kids and teaching them to throw their nets into the sea for the catch of fish.
But Jesus did come along and called Peter and Andrew to follow him. The brothers must have been searching for something deeper in their lives, because they had already been following John the Baptist and looking for the coming Messiah. When Jesus asked, they willingly left their nets and went off on the adventure of a lifetime.
Just like us on our spiritual journeys, Peter was trying to figure it out. Jesus saw leadership potential in him, knowing that beneath the rough edges was an intelligent and passionate man who could relate to the common person. Jesus knew that Peter was who He needed to lead His church after He was gone.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus tells Peter that the church will be built on him! Can you imagine how that must have made Peter feel? Yet at that point in his life, Peter still didn’t know what it all meant.
Despite being one of Jesus’ inner circle, Peter is often remembered for his failures and not his successes. We remember that he took his eyes off Jesus and began sinking when he tried to walk on the water to Him during the storm. We remember that Jesus told him, “Get behind me Satan!”, when he contradicted Jesus for saying that He was going to be killed. Most famously, we remember Peter denying that he even knew Jesus on that cold, dark morning after Jesus had been arrested.
But after His resurrection, while sitting around a fire on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus lets Peter know that he has been forgiven. Although we don’t have a record of Peter’s reaction afterwards, the conversation must have been a turning point in his life because when we next encounter him in the Book of Acts, he is the leader of the group of disciples.
After the Holy Spirit comes on the disciples at Pentecost, there is no stopping them! Peter and the others are no longer afraid, but go out into the city, preaching about Jesus. Peter’s transformation may not be as dramatic as Paul’s on the Damascus Road, but the results are real. We see Peter become the man Jesus knew he would be. He preaches outside the Synagogue, even though he is seen as “uneducated”, he heals people in the name of Jesus, and he is told in a dream that the Gospel should be carried to the Gentiles. The same passion that he showed as a younger man has merged with a newfound confidence to forge him into one of the great people in the Bible.
Most of us struggle at different times in our lives to be the person we feel God is calling us to be. What can we learn from Peter’s life about transitioning to a place where we feel at peace and fulfilled in our spiritual lives?
First, we need to be patient with ourselves and others as we are on this journey. For most of the Gospels, Peter is faithful to Christ, but not always doing it in the best way. Like a new Christian who might insult others with her over-enthusiasm, Peter is not always sensitive to others. He is learning what it means to be a follower of Jesus. In the same way, we may fumble along trying out churches, career paths and lifestyles until we find the place God wants us.
Secondly, our confidence should come from the Holy Spirit in us and from our relationship with Jesus. Peter let it be known over and over in Acts and in his two letters at the end of the New Testament that he had been with Jesus and he was sure of all he was saying. His letters are full of joy and encouragement to persevere in our faith, despite the many trials we will face.
Thirdly, we need others with us on our journey to spiritual maturity. Peter had the other disciples to lean on and in Acts 2 we are told that all the believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” We need others in our lives who pray for us and share sound Bible teaching.
Finally, we need to realize that there is no one way to be in God’s will for our lives. When Peter was traveling around Galilee, he was where he needed to be. When he was with the other fledgling Christians at the beginning of Acts, or miraculously breaking out of jail, or dictating letters to Silas, he was where he needed to be. Just as we go through different seasons in our lives, we go through different callings. God may be calling you to care for your children or your aging parents. He may be calling you to become a deacon at your church or take some time off from church duties. He may want you to be a witness at your workplace or become a missionary.
In my life, I’ve found that if I’ve done my best to listen to God’s “still small voice”, I have ended up where I needed to be. I love this quote from Barbara Brown Taylor reminding me that there are many calls from God:
If my own experience can be trusted, then God does not call us once but many times. There are calls to faith and calls to ordination, but in between there are calls to particular communities and calls to particular tasks within them–calls into and out of relationships as well as calls to seek God wherever God may be found.”
~Barbara Brown Taylor, from The Preaching Life