- Eldon Peterson
What Was I Thinking?
I’m sure that there have been times when you have asked yourself the rhetorical question, “What was I thinking?” However, have you ever noticed the arrogance imbedded in the question?
Recently I stopped to fill up my car with gas and while all lanes were open, for some reason I pulled up to a pump on the opposite side of where my tank is. No problem, I would stretch the hose as I have done before. As the tank was filling, just as I began washing the rear window, the nozzle came out and sprayed me and the car with gas. What was I thinking?
In hindsight there were countless things that I could have, should have, done differently. I could have moved my car so I didn’t have to stretch the hose so far; I should have stood there and held the nozzle. Of course, I would have done these things if I’d known that the nozzle would come out, but I couldn’t expect the unexpected.
How have you experienced similar things in your life? In arrogance have you condemned yourself for what is clear in hindsight? It is arrogance because we’re condemning ourselves for failing to do something that is outside of our ability to know. We are not omniscient.
An example of this is seen in the story of Peter, one of Jesus’ disciple. Peter is the kind of guy who acted or spoke without fully considering his actions or words. As Jesus led his disciples to the Mount of Olives prior to his arrest, we read, “On the way, Jesus told them, ‘Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”(Matthew 26:31)
How would you respond if someone you loved suggested that you would abandon them in their hour of need? Would you want more information or would you become defensive and declare, “Never!” Peter chose the latter. “Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.” (Matthew 26:33) I imagine that the other disciples would have been either nodding their heads in agreement, “Neither would I desert you!” or annoyed with Peter for suggesting that he was the only one who would stand with Jesus.
Of course Jesus knew Peter’s heart. As well intentioned as Peter’s words may have been, he was unable to do what he was declaring he could do by his own self-determination. Jesus tells him as much saying, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” (Matthew 26:34)
Possibly rather than being humbled by such words, we too might have been defensive and arrogantly declare as Peter does, ““No!... Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” (Matthew 26:35) However, in just a few hours Jesus’ words would prove to be true as Peter denies being a follower of Christ. Peter is left broken and he goes away weeping bitterly. His failure to do what he had arrogantly declared he would do leaves him feeling hopeless.
Of course, Peter isn’t alone. When we fail, when we fall short, where do our minds go? Are we filled with self-righteousness asking, “How could I…?” Or am I broken, crying out to God to give him thanks that he could love an arrogant sinner like me? Obviously, we know that the later response is the better one, the right one, but unfortunately it is not always the one that we choose.
When we mess up, what will we focus on? Will we arrogantly wonder, “What was I thinking?” as if we are above making mistakes, or in brokenness and humility will we confess our failure and seek after the Lord? Peter learned that his hope wouldn’t be found in his own self-determination to do the right thing but from trusting in the Lord.
Certainly, it is good to learn from our mistakes; next time I will be more mindful as to how far I will stretch the gas hose. But there is more for us to learn. We must humbly see that our hope is not found in what we have determined we can or will do. Our hope comes from what Christ has done for us. When I understand this, then I will know the secure hope that is mine as I rest in Jesus’ promise “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness will be given to you.” (Matthew 6:33)