No Story but Your Own
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?’ When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!’
“Child,’ said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”
C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy
On Sunday, Brittany Stillwell led us into that memorable post-Easter breakfast with Jesus at the lake shore. What a memorable, participatory time that was!
I want to stay with that passage from John’s Gospel a little more.
After breakfast, Jesus puts Peter on the spot for an extended question and answer session. He tells Peter that he is being nourished in order to nourish others. He tells Peter that the path ahead will require that he take some difficult steps down a path he will not choose for himself.
Right away, Peter sees “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” and the first words out of his mouth are very familiar to this father-of-three-who-spends-a-great-deal-of-time-with-his-young-offspring-these-days:
“But what about him?”
I enjoy a brief laugh at the thought of Jesus dealing with “sibling” jealousy and rivalry among the disciples. I have uttered the phrases “I am NOT going to be the referee” and “what matters is what you did [or said]” more times than I would care to count in the last few weeks.
If I’m feeling more reflective, I might also think about how “whataboutism” has become an accepted term for describing one of the most common ways that political discussions tend to get off track in our society (“but what about what they [did/said/didn’t do/didn’t say] . . . I don’t hear you saying a word about them!”).
But I quickly remember the main reason Peter’s question is familiar to me: I ask it all the time. “What about him — why doesn’t he seem to have any problem with this?” “Why aren’t I more like her?”
Many times, the question isn’t about a person but really just anything, “What about those other important things . . . ? Can’t we discuss those right now too?”
In all these cases, whether it’s envy, defensiveness, or just plain curiosity, “what about . . . ?” is always an attempt to distract attention away from what is spoken to us and about us.
There is absolutely a time for questions and questioning. But we can discern the difference between asking a genuine question and evasiveness.
Lord, still our hearts and minds so that your words (“Mary” [your own name] . . . “My peace I give you” . . . “Feed My Sheep”)—and not our anxious and distracting questions—echo loudest within us. Give us the courage to stay put and listen; to accept and respond to the overwhelming fact that You speak to us. Help us to be still so that we can take in more of the overwhelming news of your resurrection. Amen.