March 16, 2003 • Mark 8:31-38
Many of us are folks who are well established in our relationships, in our careers or we may be enjoying a post-career life. Some are in a comfortable routine following the seasons of life. The years come and go, and life is relatively good. We know that sense of belonging and we relish that security.
Who does not appreciate a sense of security? It would be very surprising if anyone would stand up and say; “I cannot stand feeling so secure!”
Most of us are also realistic enough to know that we cannot control what happens to us all of the time. Sometimes all we can do is to choose how to respond to events.
Part of growing up is recognizing that insecurity and security walk hand in hand and just when you are convinced you have your life under control, it throws you a curve ball. There goes the sense of security and our search for a restored security begins, often frantically.
I remember as a fourth grader who had only known the security of loving parents, a wonderful family life and the joy of the world in which I lived, coming to an abrupt end when our country began what was the start of a civil war.
Those first experiences of anguish were quickly quelled by well-meaning parents. But deep down there was the gnawing suspicion that things would never be the same again. And they weren’t.
You too, may have experienced those moments when your life changed on a dime. Health issues overturn one’s world. Financial challenges robs you of your sense of well-being. A cherished relationship blows up in your face. Betrayal or grief are sure show-stoppers.
Sometimes we weather these experiences and then go back to the life we knew. Other times our experience blast us out of orbit and our lives are never the same again.
The question is what do we do with our INSECURITY?
There are many people ready to help you with pat answers ranging from “place it in God’s hands” or the worst: “cheer up, it will get better again.”
But insecurity that lingers in one’s gut can be exhausting. It limits our potential especially when it causes us to recoil from it and shut ourselves off. It can rob us of our sense of well-being if left unattended.
Simon Peter was concerned about his sense of security, and he actually rebuked Jesus when Jesus began to teach that “the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed” (Mark 8:31).
Jesus offended his sense of security.
Eventually Peter could stand it no longer. He lashed out at Jesus.
In return Jesus rebuked Peter pretty harshly. Being called Satan by Jesus must have been devastating. But Jesus used this response to prepare Peter for his life.
Peter was in denial. His expectations of Jesus were flawed and when his own egotistical sense of future felt threatened, he crumbled. The ego is a hungry animal that demands constant feeding.
How do we retain our sense of purpose in the face of the insecurities that plague us?
Jesus gives Peter a hint; “focus on things divine”.
David Brooks wrote a wonderful article about the lives of those who have reached the top of their success only to discover an absent of fulfillment or security.
He gives examples of people who reinvented their lives. He speaks of an executive that resigned his position to become an elementary school teacher.
Another who gave up their career to help those who have served their jail time and needed to rebuild their lives.
That does not necessarily mean we should drop what we are doing.
To focus “on the divine things” is to quieten our egos, that voice that calls out to us like a baby bird, chirping in our hearts; “me-me, its all about me”.
Only when that happens, Brooks says, will “bigger desires [be] made visible: the desires of the heart (to live in loving connection with others) and the desires of the soul (the yearning to serve some transcendent ideal and to be sanctified by that service).
Jesus was trying to say to Peter, and to us, that to allow yourself to be broken open creates the opportunity to find true security.
By embracing the pains and joys of the world as our mission we shall find a sense of security that comes only from God.
In Jesus words; “If any want to become my followers, deny yourselves and take up your cross and follow me.”
Or in the words of that musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, “to conquer death, you only have to die.”
If the insecurities brought upon us by life seem to become overwhelming, may we we remember this lesson Jesus taught Peter. Peter learned from the master and became the rock upon whom the church was built.
There is yet a life for us to live creatively and meaningfully if we are willing to embrace our insecurities and “focus on the divine”.
Or as Jesus put it to his disciples;
“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,* will save it.”