The last seven days of my life are smeared across the backdrops of Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado. After spending most of August and part of September in Oregon, Bob and I set about to drive to Colorado where we have been seeking to establish a new outreach. Originally we thought we’d be going to Colorado by ourselves, but Philip and Steven decided to join us. We could not be more thrilled than to have all of our family together.
Many of you may be aware that Bob and I have waited to pursue the ministry that God put on our hearts more than 25 years ago. Ever since 1985 we have sought out a way to invest ourselves fulltime in the lives of emerging leaders, so we turned to Colorado when that dream started to bubble into reality. We quickly learned that chasing a dream doesn’t ever look the same as living the dream. Dreams can be wily. They can be stubbornly resistant, they don’t always cooperate, and sometimes they can be downright discouraging.
Case in point: the cross-country drive.
Following two logistical delays in Oregon, (we were short two cars to drive the 1,325 miles from Portland to Colorado.
Oops, that’s a problem.
The boys couldn’t get all their belongings into their cars, and Philip couldn’t get his brand new car carrier closed.
Resorting. Repacking. Reorganizing. Not working. Okay, forget it; jamming.
Wait! My mountain mums! Carefully, I stowed the pot of rust colored mums Bob had given me for my birthday behind the front seat so they wouldn’t get smushed. I’d never seen the unique color of them before and loved them instantly. They were Bob’s promise to me that soon I’d have a place to plant them in my very own yard in Colorado. Those flowers had to come with us, and they had to survive. I’d be guarding them with my life.
Finally, off we went only two and a half hours late.
We headed east on I-84 hoping to make Twin Falls, Idaho, the first night; a ten hour drive. I didn’t feel well. I knew I was in trouble, but what are you going to do? D-day has come. You have to leave, so you go. Probably not a good decision on my part. I rode in a pick up truck with Bob. Between the blur out my window and the fog in my head, I got dizzy. Add the afternoon sun relentlessly beating through the window, and Idaho couldn’t come soon enough. We pulled into Twin Falls about 9 o’clock and I spent an endless night not sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar place.
Day two brought Wyoming. Wyoming was as endless as the night I had just tossed and turned through. Does anybody actually live in Wyoming, or are they all just driving through on the way to someplace else?
After all the miles and all the agony, I decided that road trips are not for the faint of heart. Neither is trying to make a major decision when you’re sick, tired, or really, really cranky. By the time I got to Colorado, I was all of those.
We looked for a hotel and found only one in town. Eager to support a local business, we began investigating it further. Unfortunately it was, it was – O, let’s call it “hygienically challenged.” Given my already weakened physical condition, I wasn’t in any mood to even consider the risk.
Well, living in a car isn’t exactly a germ free environment suited for recovery either so we tried several alternatives – each one dead-ended into utter frustration.
You ever had that happen? Have you ever determined to live for God and serve other people only to watch all your best intentions blow up in your face? Ever gone out by the leading of God and the blessing of others only to feel like you’ve been drop-kicked off a cliff without a parachute?
Yeah, I hate it when that happens.
But here’s the thing. At some point in the ordeal, there’s a choice; there’s always a choice. Will we push through the pain until there’s a breakthrough, or will we give up pursuing God because the hill got too steep, the road got too rocky, or the air got too thin?
* * * * *
The disciples were faced with just such a situation. They had endured a tumultuous week watching Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, and burial in a borrowed tomb. The Messiah they believed in, the redeemer they trusted, and the friend they walked with was dead.
…along came Mary.
Out of breath and gasping for air, Mary reported to the grieving disciples that Jesus was not dead – that he was very much alive. She reported that she had seen him with her own eyes.
They didn’t believe her.
Peter wanted to believe. He was desperate to believe.
Peter, who had denied even knowing Jesus in the hours before his crucifixion; Peter, who grieved his own failure with tears; and Peter, who ran to the tomb to see for himself if Mary’s report was true; this Peter needed to believe. He needed to push through his own pain to a breakthrough in his faith. Peter needed his hope in Jesus to live, but the reality of his anguish kept interfering.
Was it possible that he hadn’t been drop-kicked off a cliff without a parachute after all? Did God have a bigger purpose for Peter’s pain than what he could see at the moment?
Peter needed to know.
So, God winked.
Shortly after Jesus appeared to the disciples to prove he was alive, Peter organized a nighttime fishing expedition. The disciples worked all night but caught nothing. This had been Peter’s lifetime vocation, how could they catch nothing? Disappointed, exhausted, and hungry they sailed their empty boat to shore.
Jesus was waiting. He had made a fire and prepared breakfast for them.
“Come and dine,” Jesus invited them in John 21:12. “Come and have breakfast.”
As the tired and hungry disciples gathered silently around the fire, Peter knew. Peter knew this was no ordinary encounter; it was divinely orchestrated. He knew this was a full-circle moment to be sure, and Peter also knew it was his hour. As Peter stood among the other disciples staring at the fish on the fire, God silently and specifically “winked” at him.
How did God do that?
Jesus exhorted Peter early in their relationship to leave his fishing career behind and, instead, become a fisher of men. Peter instantly obeyed. In the years that followed, Peter grew to become a leader among the disciples and one of Jesus’ closest three friends. After his horrible denial of knowing Jesus, Peter felt guilty and ashamed. He grieved. Peter had lost traction in his faith and was about to abandon Jesus’ commission to him to be a fisher of men. Peter had returned to the familiar, reverting to the sea to fish for fish.
But then God winked.
“Peter, do you love me more than these?” Jesus asked him in front of the disciples.
More than what, the other disciples? Maybe, but I think there was something else.
“Peter, do you love me more than these?”
Jesus and Peter’s close relationship began when Jesus called him away from his boat, and Peter responded. I believe Jesus wanted to know if Peter loved him more than his career as a fisherman. I believe Jesus wanted to know if Peter was going to turn his back on Jesus’ commission to him as a fisher of men.
When Peter faced the Lord that morning, he was not condemned; he was affirmed. Jesus showed Peter that his call was bigger than his pain, his commission to fish for men was still intact, and that Jesus’ love for Peter was unwavering. There was no breach in their relationship; Jesus assured Peter that nothing had changed.
Peter needed to know.
* * * * *
Sick, tired, and in desperate need of God’s affirming presence in our traumatic ordeal, I crawled into bed last night completely exhausted. This morning, however, I woke to the splendor of our own “rocky” road. Our commission has not changed, we are still pursuing this transition to ministry, and many challenges still await us.
Through a series of surprising connections, we were ushered into a (different!) motel room that overlooks the valley where we’d like to locate God’s ministry for us. Not only was the room beautiful, our night’s stay came with a complimentary breakfast. While Bob, Philip, Steven and I enjoyed the food and the magnificent Rocky Mountain view, I looked down at the middle of the table. There, there in the middle of the table were more of the very same mountain mums Bob had given me back in Oregon.
“I know where you are. I haven’t forgotten you. My plan is still intact, and my love for you is constant,” Jesus whispered to me this morning.
I just needed to know.
© Copyright, 2012 by Donna Tallman.