Peter is one of my favorite characters in the Gospels. He’s so utterly human. He constantly get things wrong, just like all of us. But in his fumbling, he sometimes manages to get it just right. And I think this is because he doesn’t hold back, he allows himself to fumble around and be human and messy. He engages with what’s going on and doesn’t give up, even when rebuked. I’m not sure I would have stuck it out in his place, but he keeps walking. And because of this, every once in a while he hits on something divine.
This past Sunday the Gospel reading came from Mark 8:27-38. Jesus asks the disciples, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (29) Peter, who gets it wrong so often, has a moment of being divine: “You are the Messiah.” (And even while we are still cheering for him, in the next paragraph gets it all wrong again.)
I think that one of the most important skills we can learn is the ability to embrace mistakes – getting “it” wrong but continuing on the path. All great works of art or engineering or business come after years of mistakes.
“There is no art which has not had its beginnings in things full of errors. Nothing is at the same time both new and perfect.” – Leon Battista Alberti (15th century artist/architect/poet/priest)
This is something that I want people to experience in our programming and something that is a central aspect of our mission. Awake seeks to be a catalyst for leadership, good relationships, and justice. We don’t have a map for how to achieve this, so we have to take the Peter path of staying engaged and embracing the mistakes that we make along the way.
This past summer we had one of those moments where in the midst of our fumbling, we hit on something divine. In May, we took on the task of creating a summer tutoring program from scratch. We had about six weeks to hire a site coordinator, tutors and aids, develop the curriculum and the training to go with it, find materials and recruit students. We had a budget to work with (a grant from another church), which certainly helped, but all the legwork was ours to do. We were offering the program not out of some grand plan, but because the opportunity came to us and we’re willing to try almost any community centered program to see what happens. We know what we want to have happen with our programs (leadership, good relationships, justice), but we don’t always know that any given project will produce what we want.This program was messy and far from perfect, but it did also feel divine. We created leadership opportunities for local teachers and high school students and people interested in teaching. We developed good relationships with our students, their families, and local leaders. We served justice through delivering a high quality program to people who don’t have the financial resources to pay full price for educational opportunities for their children. And the love we poured into the program came back to us tenfold from the families and community members that took part in it.
Like Peter, we will stumble again and make a mess of things, but these glimpses of the divine help us see that we are on the right path. That if we can continue to embrace the messiness of this work, we will sometimes experience God’s Grace in the midst of the mess, because of our mistakes.