Pastor Jenkins welcomed Henry to his office for their second visit. “Hello, Henry. I am glad to see you again. How are you doing?”

“That assignment you gave me was pretty tough. You said to study the Scripture. I realized after I started reading it, I wasn’t sure what you meant when you said ‘study.’ And praying that prayer daily was a challenge. Frankly, there were some days that I missed… I guess I totally messed up. I am sorry I let you down but…”

“Whoa, wait a minute. You aren’t letting me down. You’re right, the assignment I gave you was a tough one, but you are dealing with tough stuff. I’m not surprised that you found it difficult to pray everyday. I’m guessing from what you said earlier that you may be a bit out of prayer practice. Do you remember some of the exercises you had to do in basic training?”

“Of course. There is no way I would forget them.”

“How did you do those exercises on the first day of basic compared to the day you graduated?”

“There was no comparison. It was like night and day.”

“And I am guessing what made the difference was regular practice, commitment to the daily discipline of exercise. Well the same thing is true of our spiritual life. The more you practice the easier praying will get. Did you set a specific time each day to read the Scripture and pray?”

“No, I just tried to work it in when I had some spare time.”

“Well, that may be why it was difficult. Would you be willing to try it at a set time of the day?”

“Yeah, I guess I could do that. Before breakfast would be good. That way I could start the day focused on God.”

“Good. Now about what it means to study Scripture. It can mean a lot of things. First it means to pray that God will reveal to you how God would speak to you in that day through that Scripture. Second it means to think about what you are reading. As you think about what you are reading you will notice that certain words or phrases seem to grab hold of you. Stop reading when that happens and turn those words or phrases over in your mind. Ask what God might be telling you in those words or phrases for your life that day. It is sort of like decoding the script for your life right now. You might even have a journal to make your own notes as to what that Scripture means to you.

“The last time we met you mentioned you have PTSD. You might use those letters to guide you in your scripture study. Pray (for God’s guidance), Think (about what you are reading), Stop (when you come to a word or phrase that speaks to you) and Decode (the meaning of that word or phrase in your life now.) PTSD.”

“Gee, I guess I really did mess up. I mean I just read the words.”

“Henry, remember how you told me last time that you were doubting everything you did? Well you just gave us another example. You are blaming yourself for something that was my responsibility; I didn’t do a good job of explaining what I meant by ‘study.’ How could you have known what I meant, if I didn’t spell it out? That was my responsibility, not yours.”

“Now that you have said that, it reminds me of what I was hoping we might talk about today, Pastor.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s about how others mess up.”

“You mean like I messed up by not explaining what I meant when I said study the Scriptures?”

“Well sort of. I mean I not only doubt myself, I doubt others. I don’t think I trust anybody right now, even my own family.”

“So you find yourself doubting even the people you would normally trust?”


“Did you have any feelings like that in Iraq or Afghanistan?”

“Of course. Who wouldn’t? You are taught that your life depends on your buddies and their lives depend on you. You have to always be watching your rear and covering everyone else’s.”

“That sounds like a good strategy.”

“It is good until someone who is supposed to be protecting others screws up.”

“Did that happen to you?”

“You bet it did. We were in a fire fight; we were taking some heavy losses. Terry, a guy I had trained with, saw what was going down and stepped up. Looking back I think he was on an adrenaline high. He sort of went berserk. He ran forward and tore into the enemy like he was Superman and there was no tomorrow. He literally saved our hides, and miraculously he got by without a scratch. Then the enemy called in reinforcements and we knew we had to retreat. So we called in our own fire power. When our own artillery came in… they blew Terry to kingdom come. ‘Friendly fire’ they called it. He went down with ‘Friendly fire.’ I’ve got words for that, Pastor.”

“I’m sorry Henry. What a waste.”

“Yeah, Terry was wasted by our own men. I’d like to get my hands on the guys that did that.”

“So I am beginning to understand why you say it’s difficult to trust anybody.”

“That’s right. It’s too risky to put your life in somebody else’s hands. Sometimes I think I would like to join some of my buddies living on the streets, get away from being dependent upon anybody but yourself, I say.”

“So sometimes you think you would like to follow Peter’s example – go far away with a few friends. Catch a few fish. Don’t depend on anyone.”

“The way I figure it is, why be close to people when they can mess you over?”

“Henry, I don’t know if you are ready for me to say this or not, but what I am hearing is that you are very hurt, your trust in your own team was betrayed and you are angry that someone you loved, who stepped forward in the crisis, who probably saved your life, was blown off the face of the earth.”

“You bet I am angry. We were put in an impossible situation by those who had bad intelligence. We didn’t have the backup we needed at the time. We lost too many good men. When backup came, it killed one of the bravest men I’d ever seen in combat. You bet I am angry.”

“No wonder it’s hard to trust anybody right now.”

Henry sat in silence.

Pastor Jenkins found no words.

Finally he said, “Henry, how long have you been angry?”

Henry looked up, startled by the question. “Pastor, I don’t know what that’s got to do with anything. I’ve got good reason to be angry.”

“Yes, you do. And you may wish to carry that anger for the rest of your life. I suppose that Peter’s anger at those who crucified his best friend drove him back to fishing, too. But as I see it, you have a choice, just like Peter. You can be angry the rest of your life or you can decide that neither you nor anybody else is perfect. People make horrible, terrible mistakes that cause tremendous pain for others. It isn’t fair, it isn’t right, but still it happens.”

“I suppose this is where that forgiveness stuff comes in. Well I didn’t do so well forgiving myself last week and I don’t think I am in any mood to forgive those…well I won’t use that kind of language here.”

“I think Peter was probably of the same mind. Your friend was killed unintentionally by ‘Friendly fire.’ Peter’s friend was deliberately murdered by torture in public. So how could either one of you be in a forgiving mood? No, I think if it was up to Peter, or to you, anger might be the primary motivation for the rest of your lives.”

“But you’re telling me that Peter changed, I mean I read that in the Scripture last week.”

“Yes, he changed because Jesus came to him. Remember, Peter jumped out of the boat when he recognized Jesus. And Jesus fed the disciples, including Peter. Jesus did not blame Peter for denying him, or for being angry, for that matter. Instead he gave him nourishment. He understood that Peter needed forgiveness and hope, not

“Yeah, I know, we talked about that last week.”

“Yes, we did, but what we didn’t talk about was the fact that Jesus asked Peter to “feed my sheep.” In other words, Jesus fed Peter and then asked him to feed others, to turn away from the temptation of living his life in anger, to turn away from living his life isolated from others, to turn away from separating himself from those who wanted to love him. Essentially Jesus challenged Peter to let go of his desire for revenge, to let go of filling his own emptiness with anger, to let go of living inside an empty shell, and let himself love and be loved again. Jesus invited Peter to make a decision, even though Peter had been in no mood to engage life again. Jesus invited Peter back to life. That is the decision I think Jesus may be offering you, Henry. And I think it scares you deeply.”

Henry did not respond.

After a lengthy silence, Pastor Jenkins offered, “Henry are you willing to take another assignment?”


“Well, as I have said, I think Peter’s story is your story, so I am going to ask you to study some of the same and some different Scriptures, and I am going to give you some more questions and another prayer to pray daily. Then I would like to see you in my office in a week. Agreed?”

“O.K., give me the Scriptures and prayer and I’ll see you in a week.”

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