Starting Over with God
by Wayne Stiles
Sometimes we feel like we’ve blown it so bad that God should toss us aside and start over with somebody else.
Whenever I feel that way, I travel in my mind to the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. To a place I’ve been many times.
A place called Tabgha teaches us a wonderful truth.
Instead of starting over with someone else when we blow it, God wants to start over with us.
A Place Peter Fished, Called Tabgha
The New Testament records that after Jesus’ resurrection, He met Peter and some of the other apostles by the shore of the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23). Tradition identifies it as Tabgha.
This is my favorite place around the Sea of Galilee. It always greets me with a sign that makes me laugh. It reads: “Holy place. No shorts.” And yet here, Peter fished half-naked. (Don’t try that today, by the way.)
The place has a Greek name, Heptapegon, meaning “place of seven springs”; but in Arabic it is called Tabgha (pronounced “tav-guh”). The springs attract fish to this part of the sea and have for thousands of years. Peter knew it well.
Having fished all night and catching nothing, the apostles saw a lone figure on the shoreline as they floated on the sea. They followed the stranger’s ridiculous suggestion to fish on the other side of the boat, and amazingly, they couldn’t haul in the miraculous catch because it was so large.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, beside these same waters at Tabgha—near where the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter sits today—a dumbfounded Peter had fallen at Jesus’ feet after a miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5:1-8). Now, three years later, another miraculous catch had occurred.
When the disciples reached shore with the catch in tow, they found a charcoal fire already laid, with fish cooking. The only other time the Greek term for “charcoal fire” appears in the Bible occurs three chapters earlier, where we read that Peter warmed himself in Caiaphas’s courtyard in Jerusalem—and, out of fear, denied ever knowing Jesus (John 18:18; 21:9). And now Peter sat in an awkward déjà vu. Starting over always starts that way.
After breakfast, Jesus called Peter by the same name as when they had first met and asked. “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” (John 21:15).
A Place Jesus Changed Peter—Again
Jesus took Simon Peter back to Tabgha—to the place where their relationship first began, to the place of grace and starting over. There Jesus reinstated Peter and reminded him of his purpose.
Just because Peter had blown it didn’t mean it was the end of the line. Instead, it was the beginning. Time to start over.
Grace Allows Us to Start Over Again
Whenever I go to the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter at Tabgha, I remember that starting over with God means returning to the basics.
Sometimes it’s helpful to start over. Not to get saved again (there’s no need for that). But to remind ourselves that the essence of our relationship with Jesus is found in His question to Peter: “Do you love me?”
To realize that in spite of our failings, God still has a purpose for us in life. We should never quit.
What verse or story reminds you that starting over with God is always possible—in spite of what you’ve done? Please leave a comment.