When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” (Jesus) said to him, “Feed my sheep. (John 21: 15-17)
Don’t you feel sorry for Peter? It’s bad enough that he turned his back on the Lord in his time of need, but now Jesus was grilling Peter with the same question: “Do you love me?” Was the purpose of this dialogue to allow Jesus to get “even” with Peter? No, the purpose was to let Peter know that love requires action. And sometimes that action of feeding sheep requires that we take time to properly feed ourselves.
I had the privilege of leading an ACTS Core Team on a day of reflection this past weekend. The theme of the the day was based on an article published by Henri Nouwen, titled “Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry.” Nouwen reflects on the model Jesus gave us: Spend time in prayer, then community, then ministry (ref. Luke 6: 12-19). Rather than jumping into action, Jesus takes time to pray before beginning his ministry. There is a great lesson there.
Nouwen writes (and I agree) that we need to create space for God in our lives – time to reflect and listen to the will of God. We do this in many cases (e.g., when being invited to participate on a retreat or other longer-term decision), but do we do it enough in our daily lives? I know that I don’t always practice what I preach.
Do we ever see ourselves as the “Lambs” that need to be fed or tended to? My comment to the ACTS Team was that this is where all ministry must begin. If we tend to our own spiritual needs, we are better prepared to tend to the needs of others. If we spend more time in solitude (prayer and reflection), we can better hear that “still, small voice” that calls us forward in our faith.
Have you created space for God in your life? Do you do this on a regular basis? Spend some time reading the lyrics to the song I wrote titled “In Solitude I Wait” (click on Music Ministry on my web page to find this link). Take some time each day to create space for God in your life. You (and all those you minister to) will be the better for it!