“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”–Matthew 16:18

“But (Jesus) turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me . . .”–Matthew 16:23

“There’s no crying in baseball!”–Tom Hanks, A League of Their Own

Having little, if any, interest in organized sports growing up, now living with a house full of competitive, athletic men (plus extended family) has sometimes been a challenge. I am particularly bemused when after-game critiques focus on a bobbled play.

“Get your glove on the ground.”  “Use both hands”.  (Baseball season).  “Get your body in front of them.” “Don’t dribble the ball so much” (Basketball).  And my favorite football refrain–“Hit harder”. (Is that very nice?) The player on the hot seat begins to argue and make excuses. “That was the second baseman’s ball.”  “I couldn’t see.”  “He’s bigger than me.” (One time, the bigger football player was a girl.)

Sometimes these conversations sound harsh to me.  I want to pat all the boys on the head and say “Great job”, even when they’re terrible.  I want to focus on the good plays, not the dropped ball that cost the game. I’m quick to make excuses for the players. But I’ve come to realize that advice offered by brothers, fathers, cousins, uncles, and coaches ultimately helps the players become stronger and better at their game.  

At first glance, Jesus’s words to Peter also sound harsh–“Get behind me, Satan”.  As Jesus described the difficult days ahead for himself and the disciples, Peter tried to argue with him and make excuses.  By calling Peter the rock on which the church would be built, Jesus showed he expected the best from him.  Jesus’s reproach of Peter a few verses later were a wake-up call: “Quit making excuses.  Get focused on heaven, not on earth.”

We would prefer God pat us on the head for our good intentions, and ignore our mistakes and bad actions and attitudes. But we also need to be brought up short at times, understanding His correction makes us better, stronger players in the game of life.

Happy 47th Birthday To Me Today!  Although I am always a bit surprised to be as old as I am (what exactly happened to my 30s, anyway?) I still like my birthday.  I am now more than twice as old as my brother ever got the chance to be, and consider each year I get to enjoy family and friends a gift from God.  So despite wrinkles and gray hair (I’ve earned each and every one of them) this is a great day, indeed.