Saturday, August 3, 2013

Redemption Series: And Peter

"But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. there you will see him, just as he told you'" (Mark 16:7).

*The verse above is a reminder for me not to forget what I'm supposed to be writing about.*

See What Drugs Can Do?

First of all, my condolences to the family and friends of Cory Monteith. I'm sorry for your loss, and I pray that you find comfort in the One who has a plan for everything through everything.

I'm also sorry for harping on the topic of Cory's death like this. there must be a million other writers out there talking about it and how drugs can steal a person away from his full potential. And although I don't exactly have the facts straight, I guess there's no better time than this to talk about how this world is turning into a death trap. And maybe somehow Cory's death can eventually save other people's lives.

A Natural Response

I was scrolling down my FB's news feed when I first saw the #RIPCoryMonteith tags. With all the fake deaths circulating in the Internet, I refused to believe the news until a reliable source confirmed it. The fact that CNN's website had a headline about Cory was enough evidence for me. Cory Monteith, 31, was found dead.

What happened? Was there an accident? Was it murder? Robbery? Drugs. They say it was drugs that did him in. At that, grief gave way to frustration and anger.

I couldn't help it. The sympathy went out, and in came the questions we all end up asking people who use drugs: Why? What pushed him to do it? Stress? Peer pressure? Couldn't he have found another outlet for release, for solace, for peace?

It is perhaps a trait humans have---the ability to blame instead of understanding there's really nothing anyone can do about it now. The deed is done. The boy is dead.

What a Waste

The next couple of days, TV stations showed movies that had Cory as one of the cast. There were tributes for him. Cyberspace was filled with news about him and Lea Michelle and his other friends. It was another waste of talent.

I watched Monte Carlo the Tuesday after the news spread. And every time Cory comes on screen, I find myself exhaling and bombarding him with questions and frustrated accusations that are all for naught. "Look what you've done! You were a good actor! You could have been bigger! You could have gone really far! But you just wasted it all!" Accusations that would fall on dead ears.

Say No to Drugs

It's one of the most common slogans in the world. We've heard it all before. They've bombarded us with slogans like this since we were young. We all know the dangers and implications and social perceptions of taking drugs. We know, but we've probably desensitized ourselves from the truth: Drugs can kill.

It boggles me that people who seem to have all they need still succumb to the temptations of drugs. I'm not just talking about Cory now. I'm talking about all those people, the friends we have, the celebrities, and even the kids on the streets. Well, for the street kids, I guess that's because that's all they've ever known. Nothing seems better than getting high. They don't know better. But for those who've had the privilege of education, it's depressing to think they would choose to waste their life.

And herein lies one reason I think people take drugs: depression. Happy people are depressed. Sad people are depressed. Rich people. Poor people. Intelligent and intellectually challenged people. People in general get depressed. And this is what pushers and drug lords jump on. Got a problem? Get high. Just broke up with a girlfriend? Have some LSD. Lost a deal? Lost a friend? Fed up with boredom? Do drugs. It's a marketing strategy rigged to be successful, because, really, everybody gets depressed.

There's no such thing as stopping depression through drugs.

You're Welcome to Come Back

I will not pour my frustrations on the seeming rise of drug-related casualties here. I've done enough of that in my mind. What is more important now is the fact that there is a way out. And it's not necessarily just rehab.

A Man Named Peter

years and years before, there lived a man whose life revolved around fishing. His name was Peter. He is today best known as the apostle who built the Church. But way back then, he was just a fisherman. That was until Jesus called him and he followed. There started Peter's journey of grace and faith.

The events of Peter's life were filled with excitement and danger. Peter was impulsive. He walked on water. He severed the ear of a soldier to prove that he would fight for his savior. He promised to follow Jesus forever. His loyalty was limitless. Almost. He wasn't perfect. He was only human, and in his humanity we can find a common ground.

I Love You but I Lied

How many times have we done that? How many times have we promised something then break it? How many times did we say we'd do one thing then just end up doing another? We are fickle-minded humans. Liars. We make mistakes. We ask forgiveness then sin again. Over and over. We do it on purpose. We don't do it on purpose. The point is we sin.

Atheists do not believe in a higher moral being. Christians believe God has delineated right and wrong. Other people have their own beliefs about sin and forgiveness and good works. Whatever the belief may be, there is right and wrong, and we are wrong most of the time.

We stumble through life in a desperate race to survive, to make the right decisions, to make it to the top of the ladder, to live. We try our human best, but we fail. We hopelessly fail, and in our failures we seek an escape. That's why some do drugs.

Peter Failed

Peter failed miserably. He failed in a scale that would cause the Japanese to commit harakiri. He disowned his leader. He denied him. He did this not just once but three times. A one-time denial might be forgivable. "He was stunned. He couldn't have had denied him on purpose." A second time might be a little disconcerting. "Why is he denying Him? didn't we see them together all those years?" But a third time is the spellbinder. "Maybe he really doesn't know Jesus. maybe it really wasn't him."

And so Peter retreats, goes back to his boat probably, and may have even sulked because of what he had done.

Sounds familiar? How many of us have gone to lengths to prove that we're loyal only to fall short in one fell swoop? And in this failure, do we also tend to run away and hide? To opt for flight instead of fight? To go on living life as if nothing happened for the past years of our lives? How many of us retreat and give up, thinking there is no way back, our sin has cost us the world, and no one would be able to ever take the shame away?

I know I'm a Peter. And I thank God I am.

The Upside of a Downfall

"But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you'" (Mark 16:7).

The context of this verse involves Jesus's resurrection. The women found His tomb empty and saw an angel in place of the body. This is what the angel told them.

What's unique about this version of that account are two simple words. Words that I wouldn't even have noticed if not for one of the authors who write so keenly on this subject. There are two words in this verse that can bring us assurance that God indeed gives second chances.

And Peter

Remember, Peter already denied Christ. Three times. He failed. Yet after everything, out of all His disciples, the angel/Jesus singles out Peter. Why?

The answer is both simple and profound. It's the very nature of God. He loves. He forgives. Of course He gets hurt, but God being a god of love would not allow us, His children, to suffer in sin and guilt. In short, He gives second chances. A lot of second chances.

God calls us back. No matter what we've done. Even when we think that we've just made an unforgivable sin, when we feel as though our filth and shame and past has covered us to the point of rejection, God offers to clean us up and continue to love us. Remember, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

There is nothing in heaven and earth that can separate us from the love of God, so there is absolutely no reason for us to think He won't take us back. All we have to do is take that step.

I can't express enough how much "and Peter" is an encouragement. I can't make it more dramatic like other writers do. I can't convince you of stopping whatever unnecessary experience you are pursuing (in this case, drugs). But I can tell you the truth. And the truth is that no other god can give us second chances like the one true God of this universe. No one can love us more than God. Whatever we've done, whatever we've become, God can take us back.

You know what He's waiting for? You.

There is a way out of the mess we've made out of our lives, and it's not through drugs or any other form of perversion. It's through God's love, in His arms, trusting His heart.