O truly necessary sin of Peter

I have been thinking about St. Peter a lot lately.

Out of all the characters in the gospels (yes, someone can still be a real person and also be reflected on in the light of literature), St. Peter is one of the most dynamic. We see him grow and change from an impulsive, blunt, and prideful man into the true Rock of the Church who led Her bravely through the first wave of Her people’s martyrdom. He was bold, brave, protective to a fault (anyone else remember the “get behind Me, Satan” comment?) and tried with all his might to be a good man for Christ, the Man he looked up to more than anyone else.

But what I’ve been thinking about most with Peter, our dear friend and brother, and the first Holy Father, is one necessary moment, a moment that was incredibly hard for him to bear but was also the moment that marked the beginning of his transformation. I’m talking about the moment Peter denied Christ.

Up to this point, Peter had been trying so hard to be a strong man. He had dared the Lord to call him out onto the roaring water so he would know that it was Him. He had declared boldly that Jesus was the Messiah, the Lord. And just hours before, in the presence of Jesus and all the apostles, Peter had emphatically proclaimed that he would die for Jesus, and that there was no way he could ever be compelled to deny him. Every step along the way, it was like Peter was trying to show Jesus what he was made of, trying to prove that he was strong and brave and capable of being the man the the Lord was calling him to be and had already declared that he was.

And then, at this crucial moment of testing, all of Peter’s strength fell apart.

After denying Jesus, his Lord and Messiah and his very best friend, Peter discovered that, despite his best efforts, he was not capable of being the man he wanted to be. At least, not on his own efforts. The image of who he thought he was and who he thought he was supposed to be was shattered, and in the realization of his own humanity and weakness, Peter wept.

I sat with Peter several weeks ago, reading this moment in the gospel of Mark, and I felt for him. I felt the weight of all his expectations, of the standard he had set for himself and had been trying so desperately hard to reach, came crashing down. And yet, in that moment, I wrote in the space next to his tears:

“You have no idea how great you will become.”

You see, what Peter didn’t realize then, what he would only come to know after having reunited with his Lord and received the grace of reconciliation, was that this moment was perhaps the most important moment of his life, because this is what set the course for him putting down the man he was “supposed” to be in order to become the man he was actually being called to be.

The Lord didn’t need Peter to be strong. He didn’t want him to do it all on his own. The Lord knew that Peter was weak, and human, and had messed up and would mess up again, and all He wanted was for Peter to stop pretending and allow himself to be the man he is so that in him Christ could make him great.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I do an awful lot of pretending. I try to act like I know what I’m doing. I try very hard to not need any help. I try to be strong and I try to be faithful and I do all of this under the presumption that my performance dictates who I really am. Like Peter, I can sometimes fall for the trap that it’s all up to me, and I forget the reality that, just like everyone else, I am in need of grace.

If you’re finding yourself in a place where you feel like you have to be strong, if you feel like you’re in a situation where you’re being forced to perform, if you ever fall for the trap that holiness is up to you and that you have to be perfect to survive, today I want to give you permission.

You have permission to be human.

You have permission to need God.

You have permission to need grace.

Friends, you are allowed to be weak and foolish and incapable of doing it all on your own. You’re allowed to give up the person you’ve been trying so hard to become and instead to live in the reality of who you really are. You have never been expected to be strong. You have never been expected to be perfect. And it is only by allowing grace to come into the life you are really living that Christ can make of you His living temple and give you the strength that you’ll need to carry your cross all the way to Calvary.

Won’t you allow yourself today to be who you really are? And won’t you let that to be enough? Because I promise you, if you start there, you have no idea how great you will become.