The Danger of Distance

by Marilyn Ehle

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard…” Matthew 26:69a

…as for me, it is good to be near God…Psalm 73:28

It was always simple to discover when one of our children had broken the rules. When obedience was the pattern, he loved to be near me. Without hesitation he would run up with a big hug or an I-love-you-Mommy. But when I asked, “Has anyone seen the scissors? Or “Does anyone know anything about this broken dish?” This child—let’s call him Tommy!—was nowhere to be found. He didn’t lie. He just wasn’t nearby.

Peter, the strong follower and lover of Jesus, had been close to his friend for much of three years. He had the privilege of being with Jesus on the magnificent Mount of Transfiguration. He saw Jesus bring life to a dead little girl. He was in the precious inner circle of the three closest to Jesus.

But after the chaos near the Garden of Gethsemane when the mob arrested Jesus, Peter (along with all the disciples) ran away. We find him coming closer to the tragic scene when he sits in the courtyard of the high priest while Jesus is questioned, slapped and spit upon. He is “sitting outside.”

We also often sit just outside the circle of closeness with the Lord. Perhaps we hear His clear voice calling for greater obedience and we consciously fill our lives with activity so the voice is muffled. Or maybe He asks us to love that unlovable person and we move away from that individual’s presence so we can’t quite see the face or hear the plaintive cry for friendship.

Sitting near enough to God to hear His voice through words of the Bible or the whispers of His Holy Spirit may mean being brave enough to obey. Or taking steps of faith when the future is clouded with the fog of unknowing. Or standing alone when others take the broader path.

Before the writer of the psalm claimed his place near God, it is obvious that he carefully considered the matter:

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant… Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand… You guide me… Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you…

And then, But as for me, it is good to be near God

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