During the month of November, the focus of our teaching at Activ8Her was on gratitude. However, it came with a bit of a twist as we discussed our ability to find gratitude when challenged by a hard-to-hear truth. When truth feels harsh and uncomfortable, we have a decision to make: allow gratitude to grow usor allow an attitude to grow in us.
Digging into the Word to unpack what God might teach us, I was reminded of the conversation Jesus had with Peter about the rooster. Every Easter we are led back to that moment when Jesus stood with Peter and spoke a difficult truth into Peter’s understanding. Do you remember how it played out?
Jesus and His disciples had just finished sharing the Last Supper together and after singing a hymn, they’d gone out to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30). And then Jesus said the craziest thing Peter had yet to hear. “Tonight, all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there’” (Matthew 26:31-32, NLT).
Because of Peter’s reply, I have a sense that the words Jesus spoke hit him hard. Offensively hard. Jesus' narrative of desertion might have been for the others, but it was certainlynot for Peter. After all, who knew Peter better than Peter; and he knew he’d never do what Jesus was suggesting. “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you” Peter replied (Matthew 26:33).
Some conversations are more difficult to have than others and Peter, the outspoken one, had his share. I relate well. I’ve had my moments. I’ve been known to think out loud and create awkward moments, so this conversation feels exceptionally tough for me to read. Jesus is about to hit Peter with a hard-to-hear truth.
You see, Peter thought he knew himself but Jesus knew him better. He is intimately aware of Peter. He’s known him from before his conception (Psalm 139). And in this moment, Jesus had a decision to make: speak the truth or allow Peter to live in a state of denial.
What did He do? I will tell you what He didn’t do, He didn’t shrug and say, “Oh, okay Peter you’re probably right.” Or, “Oh, wow! I’m so sorry Peter for even thinking such a thing. Of course you’d never do that.” Nope. That’s not what He said. He said, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” Jesus confronted Peter with accusatory words that sent Peter straight into a defensive state of denial. “No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same” (Matthew 26:34-35, NLT). “I will never!” Peter asserts. “In fact, I’d be willing to give my life up for you” He contends.
Oh, Peter; so sure and certain.
Just like me. In fact, probably a little like you, too. So sure of ourselves that when confronted by a hard-to-hear truth this defensive spirit rises up and we find protection with phrases such as...
How dare you even suggest such a thing.
All this time together and this is what you think of me?
Obviously, you don’t know me very well.
Or, like Peter, I would never!
But, before the rooster crows we might want to reconsider our certainty. If I’m being honest, I will confess that when confronted with a hard-to-hear truth my initial response is often the attitude that grows in me. Rarely, if ever, have I thought, “I’m so grateful for that hard-to-hear truth because I know it’s going to produce growth in me.” Nope. Not there yet. But, one day I hope to be.
Instead, I allow the same denial to take hold of me that latched onto Peter. “I will never deny you, Jesus” I profess, and then deny Him access to tend to my heart because it might reveal the hard-to-hear truth was accurate.
Life is messy, and wounds of the heart have caused miscalculations and missteps for me. Jesus wants to fix those. But He can only do the repairs I am willing to allow. This leaves me with a choice to make before the rooster crows. Deny or rely. Attitude or gratitude.
I choose to deny Him by holding onto the grudge or I rely on Him to help me forgive from the heart. The attitude is in my resentment that God expects me to forgive. Gratitude is found when I understand the freedom I gain from forgiving.
I deny Him by choosing anger or fear instead of relying on Him to fill me with His love and peace. My attitude takes shape when I justify my angry outburst as “just the way I am.” Gratitude comes when I appreciate His desire to transform me into His image.
I deny Him every time I am faced with a choice: my will or His; His standard or mine. The low road or the high one. Follow Him or not. Attitude or gratitude.
Gratitude can overpower the attitude when confronted by a hard-to-hear truth if, and when, our desire for growth becomes greater than our fear of acknowledging there might be factual evidence in what I am hearing. Jesus wants to unpack wounds and help us see through a lens of truth based upon God’s Word.
Perhaps it is time to admit we’ve been caught in denial. At any given moment Jesus could replace our name with Peter’s and call us out. “I tell you the truth, (insert your name)—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny that you even know me.” How do you imagine yourself responding when confronted by a hard-to-hear truth?
From your spouse or significant other?
Through a hurt friend?
A concerned friend?
Your co-worker or boss?
Until we are willing to live in a place of authenticity with one another, and listen to what might come as a hard truth, there will be little fruit in our lives and God is all about the fruit. He's about authentic connections where courageous faith can thrive and our confidence is in the good work He has planned for everyone. So, what do you say? Deny or rely? Attitude or gratitude? Let’s not take too long to ponder our response …. there’s a rooster about to belt out a crow.