Our gospel story has what I consider two of the most poignant questions in the entire Bible. Our Lord has just talked about one of his most controversial teachings: That we need to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Indeed a “shocking” teaching, a saying that is “hard to accept.” As he watches his followers depart, one by one, he turns to the Twelve and asks, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter’s response on behalf of the Twelve is also a question: “To whom shall we go?”
It’s a rhetorical question, one that has an obvious answer: “No one and nowhere else.” And it’s a question that many of us may recognize, having asked the same question and hanged on to the same answer some time in our own lives.
Four years ago I felt deeply betrayed by some people that I had trusted, and as a result, experienced a period of frighteningly dark depression. It was one of the toughest times in my life. I felt terribly alone and helpless especially since like most people, I had to continue working and pretend that things were okay. Those closest to me did see beyond the facade and knew what was going on, but they clearly worried that I seemed to be falling apart. As these depressions go, I lost perspective at the time and believed that despite my friends, the whole world had abandoned me and walked away.
At such a time, I found myself frequently asking Peter’s question, “To whom shall I go?” And with certitude I knew its one and only answer: “No one and nowhere else. Only Jesus.”
It has been four years since that time. Thanks to God’s grace and the support of true friends, I survived that dangerous time. Recently, I came across a song called “Since I Saw You Last” that captured how I felt, especially the bewilderment at those just “stood and watched.” As it turns out, the singer/songwriter Gary Barlow went through a crisis of his own.
To this day, however, I have not forgotten how Peter’s question and the one answer to it saved my life. That one question sustained me during those darkest hours because it helped me seek the hidden but intimate presence of the Lord.
I have noticed, however, that since then, I have not asked that question as much–and as desperately–as I did when things felt like they were falling apart. I have always believed that the Lord is present in my life, but I have not sought his presence as much as I did when I felt my need for him. Today, as I reflect on the Gospel story, I have one simple realization: Peter’s question is not something to ask only when life feels like it’s falling apart. It is a question for every season of our life. Our Lord is always with us, always near though we do not always sense it. And we always need him though we do not always feel this need.
So here’s my resolution: I’m going to ask Peter’s question every single morning when I wake up. Through this question and through its answer, I hope to begin each day with an act of active seeking of the Lord in my life.