One of the things we have talked about consistently and considerably in our group discussions in the chaplaincy training program has to do with taking plenty of time with people who are hurting. We must always take the time to listen and engage with them. Taking our time affords us the opportunity to make better assessments of what people are experiencing and what they may need. It can also help us avoid jumping to conclusions or making assumptions based on our past experiences or paradigms about what we would do in a given situation. And just as important, perhaps most important, taking some time allows an individual to unpack some emotional burdens, and acknowledge for themselves what has been weighing them down.
In our group discussions, this aspect of taking our time has often been referred to as “not rushing someone to hope” or “lingering with them in that place of despair.” I think the phrase which resonates most with me is “meeting them where they are.” It seems to me that is exactly what is going on in the discussion that Jesus has with Simon Peter in John 21:12-17. Jesus is giving Simon Peter his charge to ministry. Jesus knows Simon is in despair because he publicly denied the Lord three times on the night of His betrayal. Jesus does not rush him to hope; Jesus does not come right out and say, “Simon Peter, I forgive you. I know you love Me and I have a job for you to do.” Instead, the Lord takes His time and allows Simon’s threefold denial to be replaced by a threefold affirmation of love. During this process, Jesus is meeting Simon Peter where he is. The Lord is allowing him to unpack his emotions and squarely face his point of failure. It is as he unpacks those emotions that he truly understands how great a love his Lord and Redeemer has for him. I hope you know how great a love the Lord has for you. He is willing to meet you where you are, and stay with you for as long as it takes until you know how much He cares for you. Until next time, stay strong in the faith.