My fingers flew through Schumann’s Papillons as the audience in the recital hall watched and listened. I had practiced this piano piece for months. As I focused on playing the correct black and white keys, I also tried to express the emotions of the piece. Yet, at a crucial point in the music all my preparation failed me. I couldn’t remember what came next! My heart started racing. Panic filled my head — chasing out all the notes that I thought I could depend on. Hoping to work my way out of this mess before anyone noticed, I jumped back to a point in the piece I was certain of. But when I reached the sticking point, once again the needed notes did not appear. I repeated this process several times, each time hoping for a better outcome. Eventually the required notes showed up and I reached the end of the piece.
Although the audience applauded my performance, I only remembered how I had messed up. I felt humiliation over my loop of failure.
Since that college piano recital, I have experienced other, more serious loops of failure. Why do I continually say the wrong thing to my husband? Why do I repeatedly lose patience with the people I love? Why do I frequently lose my courage when given a chance to share the good news of Jesus? And ultimately I wonder, How can Jesus love me if I continually mess up?
Maybe you’ve experienced your own loops of failure. You might burn with shame when you’ve once again lost it with your children or let down a friend. Or feel embarrassed about repeat binge sessions of triple chocolate chip ice cream. Or be mortified that once again you’ve broken your promise to spend more time in God’s Word. It leads to wondering, Will Jesus forgive me — again?
I find hope in the story of the apostle Peter. He experienced his own loop of failure. On the night Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter followed Him to the home of the high priest where the officials questioned Jesus. Maybe everything would have been fine if one sassy servant girl hadn’t stared at Peter and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean” (Matthew 26:69). Peter attempted to sidestep her accusation by saying, “I do not know what you mean.”
Peter’s response probably surprised him more than anyone else, since hours earlier he had boasted, “Even if I must die with You, I will not deny you!” (Matthew 26:35). Yet the failures kept coming. Two more times that night, Peter declared that he didn’t know Jesus — the man he had lived and ministered alongside for the last three years
After the news of Jesus’ resurrection, Peter probably had incredible joy mixed with gnawing anxiety. He couldn’t forget the look on Jesus’ face after the third denial and the sound of the cock crowing. How could he have failed the Friend who had given him love, acceptance, and purpose? I imagine the contrite disciple wondered, Will Jesus forgive my unfaithfulness? Will He still consider me as one of His disciples? Can I still have a place in the Messiah’s kingdom?
And because I have faced similar feelings, I love how Jesus took Peter aside one day after a campfire breakfast. Three times Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” and three times Peter replied, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you” (John 21:15-17). Jesus gave Peter three opportunities to affirm his love, offsetting the three denials.
One thing that gives me hope in this post-resurrection story is that Jesus didn’t ask Peter, “Do you promise to never again let Me down?” He asked only, “Do you love Me?” What grace. God doesn’t expect perfection. He desires love. He knows our human weakness and propensity to mess up. So even if we fail again and again and again, He still wants us to come to Him. To love Him. To revel in our friendship with Him.
Have you messed up? Experienced multiple loops of failure? Do you wonder if Jesus can forgive you?
Don’t stay in the loop of failure. Confess your mistake, your sin, and receive the forgiveness Christ earned for you on the cross.
Then rejoice in the fact that Jesus doesn’t glare at us and demand, “Promise you will never fail again!” No, He looks at each of us with compassion and asks, “Do you love Me?”