When I Fail to be Faithful
by Leslie Jones
I watch the waves lap at the shoreline from my seat on the beach, the glistening Sea of Galilee spread before me. Kicking off my sandals, I lift my face skyward, relishing the warmth of the afternoon sun. My eyes close as a slight breeze ruffles my hair. Daydreaming about being in a fishing boat with Jesus, I pause my reverie to thank God for this trip of a lifetime, a 10-day tour through the Holy Land with members of my home church.
A bird squawks overhead, rousing me from my moment of prayer. As I burrow my toes in the sand, I picture Peter sitting here on this same beach, nibbling on the fish-breakfast Jesus prepared soon after the resurrection. I imagine the guilt roiling inside him as he recalled his faithlessness, denying his Lord three times despite having boldly declared just days before, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” I visualize the flush of shame on Peter’s cheeks as he waits for Jesus to confront his denial.
In my mind’s eye I watch the scene: Jesus asks three times, “Do you love me?” With each affirmative answer, Peter is challenged to shepherd those who belong to Him. While Peter may have interpreted the question as a rebuke for his three denials, I believe Jesus used this conversation as a redemptive act, a ‘recommissioning’ for Peter. A graduation from his role as a disciple to an Apostle who would deliver Jesus’ teachings to others.
I bow my head, searching my heart to see where I’ve denied Jesus in the past and where I’m denying Him presently. Am I denying His forgiveness, His healing, His truth? Do I believe that nothing is beyond His reach, that He will forgive the times I’ve turned away from Him? Am I boldly sharing the Gospel as He commands, unafraid of people’s reactions? Am I living out my faith in Christ or am I failing to be faithful?
Hot tears roll down my cheeks as I consider just how little faith I have sometimes. As much as I want to judge Peter for his faithlessness, I can’t because I know what it’s like to set out with good intentions and then slip up on the follow-through. I’ve felt my own face flush with shame when my words, thoughts, and actions prove I still question who Jesus says He is or what He says He’ll do.
Yet there on the shore, Jesus ministers to me as He did Peter. With holy tenderness, He asks, “Do you love me, Leslie?” I breathe in whispers of redemption and forgiveness as I breathe out, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” He asks me twice more, my answer the same. Goosebumps ripple across my body as my soul rises to accept His forgiveness. This is my recommissioning, my recommitment to the challenge He lays before me: “Follow me.”
My failure doesn’t disqualify me from the holy assignment to care for His sheep. Though I’m faithless at times, Jesus remains faithful to His promise to be with me “to the end of the age.” Oh, what mercy there is in His faithfulness.
A lover of words, running, and Jesus, Leslie Jones believes a strong faith is built one intentional step at a time. Her most cherished roles are wife to restaurant-guru Kelley and mom to rambunctious Ryder. Her words have appeared in The Joyful Life and with Proverbs 31 ministries. In her downtime, she can be found training for her next long-distance race, sipping strong hot tea, or designing Lego creations with her son. She makes her home in the wild desert of Las Vegas. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook as @jonesleslieann.