Firmly Planted

©Lynn Abbott. Used with Permission.

© 2019 Lynn Abbott

Fifty years later, I can’t remember what we fought about.  But fight we did.

We were only 4, but even so, my neighborhood buddy and I had a true falling out.  She and the girl down the street stormed to her house, and I ran to mine. I slipped in through the side gate to find a quiet place to nurse my wounds.

My mother found me there.  “I thought you were playing with Jill,” she said.

It had been a terrible day, and I knew what was coming.  I didn’t feel like smoothing things over with Jill…not yet.

Mom, however, believed in making peace.  Always.

“Relationships are more important than most of the things people fight about,” mom usually reminded me.

Yet, I was too hurt to join my best buddy and our other neighbor that day.  Tomorrow would be different, but today, I wanted to cry.

For this reason, instead of answering my mom with the full account, I said, “Jill had to take a nap.”

It was a little fib…with big consequences.  But I simply didn’t wish to displease my mom, and I couldn’t face Jill.

I slipped in through the side gate to find a quiet place to nurse my wounds.

Moms, however, have a sixth sense.  My mom’s intuition was fine tuned.

She quietly walked into the house, and unbeknownst to me, called Jill’s mom.  After all, it was rather late in the afternoon for a nap, and most of us had given up regular naps.

Needless to say, Mom caught me.  And just punishment came swiftly. I never forgot that lesson: lying is never acceptable and it certainly isn’t the way to handle conflict.

My mother’s response that day became one of my most vivid childhood memories.

I couldn’t bear disappointing her. My stomach turned at the thought. Thus, rather than face either my mother’s or my heavenly Father’s displeasure, I steered clear of lying from that day forward.

Nevertheless, I still hated conflict, and found other ways to avoid it whenever possible.  I preferred to play it safe where people were concerned.

You might say that “Keep everyone happy and thereby maintain a tenuous peace” remained my default setting.

Such a stance became a bit problematic, however, when I chose to follow Jesus.

That’s right.  I decided to follow that same Jesus who said, “…In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33).  Little did I know that I was in for a wild ride.

I hated conflict, and found ways to avoid it whenever possible.

Trouble should come as no surprise. You and I have been fairly warned.  Christ himself noted that, in a world pursuing its own path rather than Abba’s, Christ is a divisive figure, (Matthew 10:22; I Peter 2:8).

Of course, whenever anyone stands for something, people take pot shots.  How much more so when you and I swim against the world’s current and follow Abba?  Conflict, then, is inevitable.

We may do our best to follow Paul’s injunction to live at peace with all men (Romans 12:18); however,  our very identification with Christ will ultimately place us in the middle of a spiritual storm.

Perhaps, this is why I so relate to Simon Peter.

When we think of Peter, most of us remember his bold confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  Or perhaps, we recall his heartbreaking denial the night of Jesus’ trial.

What I love about Peter was his big heart.  He truly loved his Savior.  Yet, as I view his life in its entirety, I see someone who vacillated between great faith and tremendous fear.

From the very beginning of his earthly walk with the Savior, Simon Peter demonstrated a desire to avoid conflict and difficulty.

Sure… At times, he spoke boldly, but often, he waffled and advocated the safe road. Matthew 16-17, in fact, recounts a few of Peter’s pendulum swings.

After Peter boldly proclaimed his faith, Jesus began to describe the journey ahead, the Via Dolorosa.   He even told his disciples that He would be killed and then, would rise on the third day.

Christ’s words didn’t sit well with Peter.  In fact, Peter took Jesus aside and spoke to Him privately:  “‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!'”

Our very identification with Christ will ultimately place us in the middle of a spiritual storm.

Peter longed to protect his Savior.  Peter wished to avoid the coming conflict.  But this was not Abba’s plan.  His Son would ride a donkey into the storm.

For this reason, Jesus rebuked Peter and identified Peter’s root issue, “…you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men,” (Matthew 16:23).

Isn’t that the way it is?  When fear unsettles my faith, I’m sorry to say that I regularly consider people-pleasing over God-pleasing.

After all, persecution is not my favorite part of the faith journey.  In truth, I’d rather walk on water with Jesus than take up my cross daily.   Thus, when fear and faith collide, sometimes courage wins.  Other times… not so much.

And so it was with Peter. He sought a more pleasant path for his Lord and for himself.  come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me… What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16: 24, 26-27).

Jesus calls me to stand with Him.

So, because of love for the Savior, Peter followed Jesus to Jerusalem; Peter defended Jesus in Gethsemane… under the cover of darkness.

But then, fear openly denied Christ in the temple courtyard.  Fear of man. Fear of all that comes with controversy, conflict and persecution.

Yes, the avoid-trouble-if-at-all-possible Simon showed up not long after Peter, the rock, boasted courageously, “…I will lay down my life for you!” (John 13:37b).

I get that. And I also understand the remorse he felt when Christ noted his denial with a single look.

“She’s taking a nap,” I said.  But Mom knew better.

Yes, the temptation to self-protect rather than to God-please visits us all at some point in our lives.  Hebrews tells us that Jesus was tempted in all ways as we are and yet did not sin.  And yes, in that wilderness, the enemy tempted Christ to take the easy road, to self-protect rather than to trust Abba.

“Worship me,” Satan said, pointing to the world. “All this will be yours.”

Avoid the cross; gain the world.

Uh, huh. That’s right. No temptation has overtaken you and me except that which is common to all humanity.

But Abba is faithful, and  “…He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it,” (I Corinthians 10:13).

Peter, the rock, crumbled.  Yet, after Resurrection Sunday, Christ put that rock together again on a beach in Galilee.  And in an upper room in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, Abba provided Peter and all of us with the power to escape temptation.

Peter’s life transformed with the coming of the Holy Spirit.  The same Peter, who once feared people in the temple court, stood firm before the Jewish religious leaders known as the Sanhedrin.

When threatened with punishment and persecution, Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29).

In Peter’s story, I find hope.  If Peter, the pendulum, can stand strong, then so can I.

Jesus calls me to stand with Him.

I may not enjoy conflict.  My distaste for it hasn’t changed much since I was a little girl.

But I now know that Abba’s Spirit prepares you and me for whatever we may face.  By His grace and power, we stand.

“‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty,” ~Zechariah 4:6b
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers,” Psalm 1:1-3