Picture in your mind your happy place. For some it is a walk in the woods, a cabin in the mountains, or a stroll along the beach. Many people enjoy the morning silence with a cup of coffee in their favorite chair. Possibly it is the view from your front porch, or a leisurely drive in your car. Wherever your happy place is—go there in your mind.
I believe Peter’s happy place was the Sea of Galilee. This is where Jesus first asked Peter to become a disciple, and where Peter committed to a lifetime of serving Jesus to build the Christian church.
Peter’s journey began with Jesus walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He calls out to Peter and Andrew who were casting their nets into the water, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” (Matthew 4:19).
Jesus had preached in the area for several days, so Peter and Andrew already knew about Him. There was no hesitation, no doubt or fear. They immediately dropped their nets and followed Jesus.
Peter and the remaining disciples traveled with Jesus throughout His ministry. Peter watched as Jesus fed five thousand men with two fish and five loaves. He and the other disciples maneuvered Jesus through crowds of people who were seeking miracles and healings. Peter was the only disciple with enough faith to walk on water. A feat none of us would attempt today.
Jesus preached, healed, taught, showed compassion, and loved everyone. But not everyone liked Him. He was often in the midst of controversy with the Sadducees and the Pharisees because He challenged their manmade rules. It was because of these controversies that Peter feared for his life and denied Christ three times the night that Jesus was arrested.
Peter had his ups and downs as a disciple, but his love for Jesus continued grow. In spite of both the good and the bad moments, he never regretted his decision to follow Jesus.
Three years after Peter became a disciple, Jesus was crucified and had risen from the dead. Before ascending to heaven, Jesus once again walks along the shores of Galilee. He sees the disciples fishing and calls out to them, but they do not recognize Him from the distance. Jesus seizes one last opportunity to teach the disciples by performing another miracle. He instructs them to toss their nets on the right-hand side of the boat, and immediately their nets were full and overflowing.
That day, Peter was doing what Peter loved—fishing on the Sea of Galilee. He was enjoying his happy place. Once they were ashore, Christ challenged Peter and asked him three times, “Do you love me?” Each time Jesus asked the question, He used a different Greek word for love. Essentially Jesus asked, “Do you love me? Do you really love me Are you even my friend?”[i]
Each time Peter replied, “You know that I love you.” (John 21).
Many scholars say Jesus challenged Peter three times, because Peter had denied Christ three times. Jesus was persistent because He wanted Peter to understand true grace. He didn’t want Peter to dwell on his past mistakes, he wanted him to know he was truly forgiven.
Peter’s life was never the same after that encounter on the shores of Galilee. Peter gave total control of his life to Christ, and God used him to build the Christian church. He went from being a fisherman, to being an evangelist. He knew from experience that the road ahead wouldn’t be easy. There would be times of joy, and times of trial. He would need the Lord’s strength for the journey, and rest in His peace on days of turmoil.
The greatest change in Peter’s life was the moment he understood that Jesus alone is the true meaning of love. Three years prior he committed to being one of Jesus’ disciples. But on this day, he made a lifetime commitment to follow Jesus wherever the road would lead.
So, are you still at your happy place in your mind? A place where you are calm, your troubles are few, and you have a peaceful smile on your face. You look off into the distance, and you see someone walking toward you, but you can’t recognize Him. This man calls out to you, and suddenly you realize it is Jesus. You and Jesus are alone. He calms your fears as you relax in His presence. There is a radiance which seems to surround the two of you, then He lovingly asks, “Do you love me? Do you really love me? Are you even my friend?”
Jesus is longing to hear those same words Peter spoke so many years ago, “Yes Lord, you know I love you.” Give Jesus total control of your life, because Jesus alone is love. He will take you places far beyond your happy place.
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16).
So where is your Happy Place—that special place where you feel closest to God? I would love to hear from you. Let me know where your special place is and how God is working in your life.
[i] Tyndale, and Tyndale House Publishers. Life Application Study Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004.
Happy Place won the People’s Choice Award for non-fiction in the Radiant Writer’s Community writer’s challenge.