Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” . . . “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matt. 16:16-18
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Matt. 16:23
This may come as a surprise to you, but most men seem to be allergic to cleaning a restroom. I’ve worked in more than one place where the men’s room would get so dirty the EPA was scared to enter, but still no one would think to clean it. You know, it wasn’t their job.
To complicate the situation, most men are completely inept at removing the empty toilet paper roll and replacing it with a fresh one (they just stack it on the empty roll) or figuring out how to get into the hand towel dispenser and fill it up (they just open the package and set it on the counter). These men can fly a plane, build a three-thousand square foot house on the weekend and rebuild a boat motor in their sleep, but the logistics of hanging a roll of toilet paper mystifies them.
Because I knew that it wasn’t anyone’s job to clean the men’s room at work, and that it’s sometimes gone three weeks before the manager had to tell someone to do it, I decided to take the initiative and clean it myself. As I was doing so, I remembered Jesus washing the disciple’s feet. Washing feet was a necessary but menial task that wasn’t assigned at the Last Supper. Since it was nobody’s job, the twelve disciples all sat around staring at one another, waiting for someone else to do the dirty work. Since everyone was above such work, Jesus did it. That shamed them and taught them a valuable lesson. As I cleaned the restroom, I had a deep satisfaction knowing that I was doing something Jesus would have done. It felt good to simply do the right thing because it needed to be done, without expecting anyone to say “Thanks” or “Good job.” And of course, no one did.
Later that day, someone from work asked me to put away some items that had been stacking up on a counter. I looked at all the guys hanging around and talking, and wondered why he would ask me to come all the way over and put stuff away when three guys were idly standing nearby. I bristled at his suggestion and knew instantly that I was in a BIG struggle with my pride. Now I’m acting like a heathen at work as my pride rises up and performs space-age gymnastics to protect my ego. You know what an ego is? It’s that false image of myself I’ve worked so hard to project, to put out in front of myself so God and all the world can see it and approve it. But God loves me too much to let me live under an illusion of who I think I am. In His love He shattered my illusion to pieces, and even as I write this I’m humbled by the experience. It’s a difficult thing to admit you can go from being saint to Satan in just a matter of minutes, but it’s true.
I also learned to be honest with my dishonesty. I thought I was better than that. I thought I’d learned plenty about humility and obedience when I was a monk. But I was being dishonest with myself in thinking I’d “arrived” at a certain level of spirituality. I’d arrived alright, but it wasn’t the place God wanted me to be.
Finally, I take comfort in knowing that even though Peter went from saint to Satan in just a seven verses, it was also Peter who, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached one sermon and saw three thousand souls saved. God didn’t throw Peter out for not being perfect, and He’s certainly not going to do so with me. Or you. God loves me when I’m acting like Jesus and still loves me when I’m acting like the devil. It’s nice to know that I can go from saint to Satan (and back again) in seven verses and still hear God say, “That’s okay. Tomorrow is another day. Now, go feed some sheep.”