“But I don’t want to!” My 7 year old simply didn’t want to go to school that day. She didn’t want to, and that fact alone should have released her from her obligation to attend first grade class that day. “I don’t want to!” Imagine her surprise when her father, the mean ogre forcing her to do what she didn’t want to do, informed her that her momentary desire did not overwhelm the constant reality of her scheduled attendance.
In my own life, as I’ve looked back and examined the times, places, and situations I really tried to avoid, I discover that, most of the time I was wanting to avoid something that wasn’t good for me. That’s positive. But there have been times when I was attempting to avoid some conflict or some situation or some scenario that my avoidance came from my own fear of being embarrassed, hurt, or even discovered. Here my avoidance was a misguided attempt to avoid responsibility or even the momentary “bitter” medicine of repentance that, in the long run, was actually rewarding and for my own good.
In those times I have been called to exercise a strength of character and will that went a long way in healing my own insecurities and fears. When I “faced the music” of the hard work of being responsible and accountable it was always a time of spiritual and emotional growth, though it was rarely what I would call a “pleasant” experience. But, hey, the “school of hard knocks” is always accepting applications for those who have the courage!
In today’s Gospel Lesson, we read of our Lord telling His Apostle Peter some strong words. The Lord tells Peter “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” (John 21:18) He tells Peter this in the context of the post-Resurrection encounters before the Lord ascended into heaven.
Imagine the scene: The Resurrected Jesus is walking and talking with His disciples in that amazing 40 day period after the crushing sadness of Good Friday and then the disbelieving elation of the Resurrection at Pascha! During this time the Lord is teaching His disciples and preparing them further for the moment the Holy Spirit would come upon them at Pentecost and empower them to be witnesses over all the earth. In this amazing moment, the Lord tells Peter to feed His sheep. He requires Peter to answer Him three times, to undo the three times Peter denied Him before the cross. He then tells Peter that when he gets old, he will have to go where he doesn’t want to go. Read the whole section in John 21:14-25. To make a long story short, Peter doesn’t say “no.” He follows the Lord even to his own martyrdom. He remains faithful even when he had to go where he didn’t want to go.
Today, are you avoiding something or some place unpleasant because you don’t want to deal with the necessary responsibility you have for a situation? Why? What’s stopping you from faithfully even going where you don’t want to go? What is the barrier, either internal or external that’s standing in your way of being faithful no matter what? Is it fear? Is it pride? Perhaps you simply don’t know how to proceed. Get with a wise spiritual father and talk it out. You don’t have to go where you don’t want to go by yourself! Today, be faithful, even when you don’t want to.