I want to report a mugging. The perp is .gray-haired Caucasian, 6-foot-2, 180 pounds. I’d add “devilishly handsome,” but I’m modest.
It was a self-mugging, and I’m the perp. It’s the kind of mugging we tend to give ourselves after doing something stupid.
It happened last month when my youngest child, Nicole, 17, was scheduled to have her wisdom teeth removed.
On the day of the surgery, the perp was observed eating breakfast.
“Aren’t you taking me?” she asked.
“No, you’re mother is taking you.”
“I thought you were both going with me.”
“Uh, no,” was my heartfelt response.
Trapped in the gravitational pull of my own self-importance, I told her I needed to work at home. And with great sensitivity I added, “I’ll come if you really need me.”
My pajama-clad appearance lacked credibility, and she declined.
Not long after they left, the mugging commenced. No ammunition was off limits. I fired off the shouldas, couldas and wouldas. It was a masterpiece mugging that left no outside disfiguring marks.
I slammed my palm into my forehead enough times to leave what I call duh-prints. I wish I could tell you that I raced after them.
Nope. I was enjoying the mugging too much.
“What’s so enjoyable about a guilt mugging?” you ask.
“Where’s the payoff?”
The guilt whipping becomes all about paying penitence and keeps the focus on yourself instead of the person you should be helping. It’s a way of convincing yourself that you’ve paid the price for the incident and suffered enough.
The problem with that kind of thinking is that faith isn’t about guilt. Faith is about redemption. This was a lesson Peter learned as a young disciple of Jesus. At first, I think Pete was just looking for an intern position. On more than a few occasions, he’d expressed interest in Jesus’ job. He could be a real hothead.
On the night Jesus was betrayed, Pete went looking for him. Folks in the bloodthirsty crowd asked three times whether he and Jesus were buds.
“Nope, not even close” Pete told them angrily. The only way he knew to deal with anger was to deny it. So deny, he did.
Now, here’s the spooky part. After Jesus was executed, he came back to take Pete on a beach walk.
Peter was horrified. Jesus, no doubt, saw Peter’s duh-marks. And beneath those self-mugging marks, there was immense shame remaining.
Jesus asked Peter three times whether he still thought the two of them could be buds. That’s a Norris paraphrase. The original language spells it out more like: “Peter, do you love me?”
Three times Pete said, “yes!”
Three times Jesus replied, “Then feed my sheep.”
Like me, Pete was so wrapped up in his own guilt that he failed to see what he really needed to do. Jesus was trying to teach him that guilt stops when you get outside yourself and help people.
“Go feed my sheep, Pete.”
Loosely paraphrased, “Be my Little Bo’ Pete.”
Jesus was explaining that to escape your own gravitational pull, you must find a way to be a blessing to those who are in need.
Jesus was telling Peter, “It’s not about you anymore. It’s about the people who need God. It’s about the people who need you to give them God with skin on.”
The ring of the phone pulled me from my trance. It was my wife telling me the surgery was over and they were coming home.
“Did she complain about me being absent?” I asked.
“Why would she do that? I was there.”
Not all my duh-prints are self-inflicted. Sometimes God lets my wife apply them.