“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” Those words of Simon-Peter gripped my heart as my family and I watched The Chosen, a series about Jesus’ life as viewed by those whose lives he touched.
Simon-Peter had conspired with the Romans to sell out his fellow fishermen who weren’t paying their taxes. He’d lied to his wife about his plotting. He was an angry and brash man surprised and overwhelmed by the miracle Jesus had just performed—filling Simon-Peter’s nets with a lavish catch of fish.
Simon’s plea—“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man”—struck a familiar chord in my heart. They were the words I’ve often spoken to God as I recall my imperfections, my anger and impatience, my failure to live up to the perfect altar-boy image I think I should aspire to.
“What’s blocking you from letting God’s limitless love embrace you?” my spiritual mentor, Don, asked me a few days later as I processed a part of myself that needed healing.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “There’s a lot of things. I don’t measure up to God’s expectations. I doubt he’s real sometimes. I fear he’ll abandon me. I expect that if I let God fully into my heart, he’ll want something from me, something I’m not ready to give up or give.”
“What’s your deepest desire?” Don’s eyes drilled through me.
As I pondered his question, Don reminded me when Peter encountered Jesus for the first time after the resurrection, Jesus didn’t require anything from him. He didn’t demand Peter become perfect. He didn’t ask him to give up something. Jesus didn’t even ask Peter to say he was sorry for denying him. Jesus simply asked Peter if he loved him.
It’s not that Jesus needed Peter to admit his love for him. Rather, like a magnet draws opposites to complete its connection, Jesus was inviting Peter to name his deepest human desire: to be embraced and held by the Divine One who loves us without limits.
Don leaned forward in his chair. “Can you let Jesus draw you to his chest, embrace you in his arms with unending love, and hold you like I imagine he held Peter in those timeless moments on the seashore?”
My heart melted with a burst of tears. “That’s what I want, Don. I want to let God love me without limits. But I don’t know how to get there.”
“There is no ‘getting there.’ You can’t think your way there,” Don said. “You simply create space to be with God and ask for the grace to let him love you without limits and see where the Spirit of Christ takes you.”
The next morning during my quiet time, I asked God to open my heart to allow him to fully love me. Don had suggested I look for an image that might speak to me. I Googled the words, “Peter and Jesus.” Like a river whose dam has been removed, the above image broke open my heart:
I sat for several moments imagining I was the one in the picture being held by Jesus. This poem then wrote itself on my heart:
My Deepest Desire
Jesus—Divine Lover—Intimate Friend
draw me into your chest
embrace me with the sweet taste
of your unconditional love.
as I bury my nose
in your skin.
Let your sweat
intoxicate me like heavenly incense
wafting in my nostrils
drifting into my lungs.
Fill my being
with the gift
of knowing beyond understanding
I am yours.
now and forever
with the tender strength
of the One
who loves me
beyond earth’s measure.
What’s your deepest desire? What’s your image of God’s loving embrace?
Take some time to sit in the quiet. Ask the Creator for the grace to let God love you without limits.
Open your heart.
See where the Spirit takes you.
—brian j plachta