There is something universal about my general attitude of superiority to all things related to the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Or maybe it’s just me.
I thought it was the one place that I could occasionally go to remind myself that, yes, phew, while I am still a work in progress, at least I’m not so shallow and small as the people I see through a haze of gossip and greed on those shows.
The problem with my theory happened last week in the form of one Yolanda Foster, mother to current it-girl model Gigi Hadid and friend to, well, to her own convictions of refusing to behave like a jerk.
Four women were acting catty and bratty toward one woman, and pressured Foster to join in, but she kindly and firmly stood her ground. “I think that it’s very easy for all of us to just kick her to the curb, you know, but… life today is very lonely. We need to look out for each other,” she said, and then went on to defend the woman through about ten minutes of berating by the others.
Wait a minute. This was a Real Housewives reunion which, believe me, is code for: here be dragons in this, the darkest of dark places.
Instead, here be a Housewife character showing me up by coming through for a friend. At a particularly dark moment. Even though it put her in a vulnerable hot seat with somebody who was on her way down.
And that is a very hard thing to do.
Just ask Peter.
The Apostle Peter had a full-speed-ahead temperament with which he boldly stepped out of a boat, loyally sliced off a soldier’s ear, and nobly said to Jesus, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
I relate so profoundly with all of that which Peter said and did. Not so much because of it, but because of what happened next.
What happened next included sinking plus crying out plus chastisements from Jesus, plus, well, you remember this line: “I am not.” That was Peter’s scared reply during a friend’s very dark moment. A girl asked him, “Are you one of Jesus’ disciples?” Peter said the same thing one, two, three very sad times one very sad night, to the tune of a cock crowing.
If only I could feel superior to that. Why, instead, does it feel so…not unfamiliar? Not at all.
Is it the pressure of the crowd? Is it our personally weak characters? Or rebellion? Or rejection? At the scene of the walk-on-water debacle, where Peter would have been fine if he had metaphorically stood his ground, Jesus asked Peter, “Why did you doubt?”
Why did Peter doubt? Why do any of us doubt and then let that lead us to chicken out? Especially in the dark moments when it is so important to do the very opposite?
Many believers profess that we need only to know Jesus. Really know who Jesus is.
But Peter knew Jesus. He knew Jesus personally, and he knew who Jesus was. Peter knew his thoughts about God. But. Did he know Gods thoughts about him? After chillingly denying Jesus three times, Peter found out.
Disgraced, Peter stood face-to-face with Jesus after not having had Jesus’ back. Peter said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
That word know is the Greek word eidō, a verb meaning “to see.” In other words, Lord, you see me.
You see me.
That is an unimaginably vulnerable place to be. Seen. Our ugliest, most embarrassing bits. Being seen can be excruciating.
God’s reality presents itself a lot differently than reality TV. In God’s reality, people can, in fact, go from bad to better. Sometimes they go all the way from better to changed. For a lot of us, that takes practice. Personal growth, spiritual understanding, and general maturity take … practice.
At least it did for Peter. Getting his footing took time, required patience, looked messy, and left him achingly vulnerable before a God whom he loved very much. How did God respond?
“Feed my sheep,” Jesus told Peter. God gave Peter a life calling and personal purpose. Peter walked on with reassurance.
But not perfectly.
After all that, plus a filling of the Holy Spirit, Peter decided to blow off his Gentile friends just to save face in front of visiting, pious religious buddies.
Oh, terrible feeling of…not unfamiliar. Not at all.
Luckily for Peter, there was Paul, a man with his own shady past, who disciplined Peter by calling him out on the issue in front of the whole crowd. Paul’s chastisement was not the barracuda-esque biting that characterizes the likes of reality TV. It was an edifying reproach, to help Peter reestablish footing on solid ground, laid out by a friend.
What about this business of edifying? Does it happen only in places where we are safe, from people who are sound? I know what safe is, and, well, safe is not immersed in trash TV. But I cannot deny that a glimmer of more-safe-than-I showed up through the kindness of one Real Housewife that reunion day. Riddle me this: in a haze of godless gluttony, does a glimmer like that even matter?
It mattered to the woman Foster defended.
And she matters to God. We all do.
The women sitting around in those reunion chairs may not believe that. Their viewing audience may not believe that either. You may not believe that.
But, He wishes you would.
*this article originally appeared in heathersanders.com