By Ellen Nimmo
If you know someone, you might be able to rattle off a few characteristics, a few traits, facts, or observations about them. And, the more you know someone, the deeper the relationship becomes, the more of those little insights you’d presumably accrue. You’d notice mannerisms and frequently used phrases. If you’re around them enough, you’d probably pick up on favorite foods, whether they are more outgoing or more reserved, what sorts of things get them excited and what sorts of things get them upset, and if they wash their hands after going to the bathroom.
Being known well by another human is one of the most precious and one of the most vulnerable places we can be. I’ve been known well by a valuable few. Partially due to the fact that our time is finite and we literally only have time to be known by a few and partially due to the fact that I am selective about who gets to see more of me. I think that’s normal and probably that’s good, but I haven’t checked so if you want an expert’s opinion, we should find you an expert. Me, I’m just an average gal.
And average can be good.
At least, Jesus didn’t seem to mind average. In fact, the Gospel texts, the eye-witness accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, indicate that Jesus called ordinary people to become his followers. One such average dude was Peter. Maybe you already know Peter’s story. If not, you can check out a brief video and the written exposition which follows the video here. It’s a stark before-and-after testimonial that stretches over three decades.
My own story of encountering Jesus’ love isn’t nearly as awe inspiring as Peter’s is, not to most folks anyway. Probably, if we had the time and you had the interest, even if I could remember all the details along the way, all the moments of transformation, all the ways in which I have felt radically altered by Jesus’ love – chances are you’d still walk away uninspired.
If you’d ever like to test the claim, I’m free for coffee next week.
But, friends, I tell you from my heart of hearts, I have felt the love of Jesus cocoon and metamorphose me. Not into something or someone perfect. Not into unthinking robotic religion. Not into a human of wild and worldly successes. Nope. Far from it. Rather, what I’ve experienced through reading the historical accounts of people that lived (and died) to see Jesus at work in both the physical and spiritual realms is something that, I pray, will never leave me. Why? Because, although the journey is often confusing and full of trials both large and small, I believe it is slowly, over time, transforming me into a woman of more tenderness, more boldness, more patience, more compassion, more understanding, forgiveness, and love. Notwithstanding my shortcomings, of which there are many. And, like Peter, those times where I’ve denied Jesus, where I’ve wanted my own comfort or the approval of other people more than I’ve wanted him – thankfully those moments haven’t severed Jesus’ love for me. No, he is willing to extend me grace, by way of a simple question. The same one he asked Peter after he had died brutally, after he had lain silent in a tomb, after he had miraculously risen, he looked Peter in the eyes and asked him, “Do you love me?”
Somehow, when I read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, or admire a tree blooming in the dews of Spring, or sometimes when I look at the night sky, or hear a child laughing, or sit with someone crying, I hear that same question echoing over the centuries, over the minutes and moments straight into the ears of my heart. And Good God, let the answer be a resounding, “Yes. Lord, you know that I do.”
It’s a mystery I won’t be able to fully explain. Peter might not have been able to fully explain it either. But even the most secular of historians would agree, something remarkable happened to Peter. To turn him from an ordinary fisherman in the first century, to a fisher of men (Mark 1:16-17).
You see, for whatever divine reason, Jesus wasn’t interested in doing only a little transformation, nor was he interested in doing a wave of the wand changeling-trick. Nope. Instead, Peter was transformed over time. Over miracles witnessed, over compassion taught, over parables and stories, over generosity, miles of travel, meals shared, and over a powerful love. This love, was extended to him over and over by Jesus despite Peter’s shortcomings and shortsightedness. This love would transform Peter over time, into someone courageous and beautiful. Someone that moved against fear, hate, and the power-hungry elite. So much so that Peter would eventually die proclaiming this great love that Jesus extended to him (and to as many as would accept it for themselves). And, if the promises of Jesus are real, Peter went on to live anew; fully transformed in the Kingdom of Heaven.
As I mentioned earlier, being deeply known by someone is a precious and vulnerable situation. And, I have come to believe, even after years of denial, that Jesus knows me more deeply than anyone else. He knows, knows me. Yes, as the Psalmist writes in Psalm 139: You are aware of all my ways. Where can I go to escape Your Spirit? Yes, Jesus knows all of me, the good and the bad. Still, he loves me. He accepts me. He gives me the opportunity to return to him again and again, in his steady voice, in his restoring light, gently asking me to remember my love for him.
And, Good God, I do.