This excerpt from Brennan Manning’s Abba’s Child is worth reading over and over and over until it gets inside us. The context of this piece is Manning describing a retreat where he spent 5 days in John’s gospel and was struck by how the disciple came to know himself as the one whom Jesus loved. Manning wonders what would happen if we became absorbed by that fact and allowed it to be our identity – one whom Jesus loved. How would that change the way we approach Him, particularly when we fail?
Peter, the denier of Jesus, a failure as a friend in the hour of crisis, a coward in his soul before the servant-girl in the courtyard, jumped into the water almost naked once John told him Jesus was on shore. “At these words ‘It is the Lord,’ Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water” (John 21:7). John notes that the boat was about a hundred yards offshore.
These biblical characters, however clean or tawdry their personal histories may have been, are not paralyzed by the past in their present response to Jesus. Tossing aside self-consciousness they ran, clung, jumped, and raced to Him. Peter denied Him and deserted Him, but he was not afraid of Him.
Suppose for a moment that in a flash of insight you discovered that all your motives for ministry were essentially egocentric, or suppose that last night you got drunk and committed adultery, or suppose that you failed to respond to a cry for help and the person committed suicide. What would you do?
Would guilt, self-condemnation, and self-hatred consume you, or would you jump into the water and swim a hundred yards at breakneck speed toward Jesus? Haunted by feelings of unworthiness, would you allow the darkness to overcome you or would you let Jesus be who He is – a Savior of boundless compassion and infinite patience, a Lover who keeps no score of our wrongs?