I want to tell you about one of the most remarkable moments in my life. It was a day where shame met mercy and mercy triumphed. It was a day where total failure met extravagant grace and I learnt that grace eats failure for breakfast! Do you want to hear about this wonderful moment of divine encounter?
I’m guessing it would help you if I set the scene, because I suspect some of you are imagining this world-changing moment took place in the throng of some gigantic auditorium with a world-renowned speaker on stage. You know, one of those conferences with lots of hype. However, if that’s what you are picturing, then you couldn’t be further from the truth.
My grace encounter took place on a beach, sadly not Gorleston beach, but a beach nonetheless. You see, just a few days earlier, I had blown it big time. In fact, I had blown it so badly, that I was attempting to drown my shame and cover over my failure and blot out the pain with work. And not just any work – work that was familiar. Something I could do without thinking but something that would also enable me to not think about the ‘pigs’ ear’ I had made of my life. Like a mother to a small weaned child, the familiarity of the work calmed, to a degree, my broken and crushed heart.
Some of you may not be aware, but before doing what I do now, I was a fisherman. My earliest memories are of mending nets (or at least attempting to) with my dad, my uncle and in fact, practically everyone in the village! I also remember the addictive thrill of being out in the boat when the nets were pulled up and the mass of wriggling fish were gathered into the boat. Fishermen have a saying “a bad day fishing is better than a good day in the office.” Only true fishermen get that!
Anyhow, whilst my world was all at sea, and I had been trying to find some solid ground back in my old fishing boat, the very man I had abandoned, disowned and failed showed up on the beach! Like a shepherd looking for a lost sheep he came to me. However, he did much more than that, he prepared a beach barbeque breakfast and he invited me! Someone once said, that “few acts are more expressive of companionship than the shared meal” … and I was being invited to eat with the man I had left for dead. Was I really his companion? Was I really his friend?
Let me be clear, it wasn’t just me who was invited, but it felt that way to me! In fact, it felt like the rest of the world had faded to grey and the only thing left in colour was him, his food, his kindness and me.
The one I so desperately failed, welcomed me. The one I disowned showed me honour, dignity and companionship. As he passed me some cooked fish, it felt like I was eating down healing and restoration. To be honest, it was one of the most wonderful and terrifying moments of my life. Then he spoke, “do you love me more than these”, In that moment of both challenge and grace, Jesus was showing me, Peter, that the only true solid ground to be found is him. That was hospitality I will never forget!
(Based upon the account of Jesus Restoring Peter found in John 21)