I always love hearing my friend Rob Gardner talk about writing Lamb of God, an Easter oratorio about the final days of Christ’s earthly ministry. I think part of it is because while Rob is incredibly talented (arguably a musical genius), I also know him to be a pretty normal guy. We’ve seen movies together and gone to London together, and what I appreciate about Rob is that he isn’t and doesn’t pretend to be someone who has it all figured out. And yet, he wrote what I consider to be a masterpiece all about the Savior of the world. He was young at the time and was enrolled in a program for film music at USC. He had been fortunate to be admitted to the program and was really enjoying it when all of a sudden, he began having ideas for what would become Lamb of God. He hadn’t even begun writing the oratorio when he contacted the London Symphony Orchestra via email and asked if they would be willing to record his composition. They wrote back explaining cost and availability, and Gardner booked it. He then dropped out of his program at USC solely based on the good feeling he had about the project, and a few months later, it was finished. Gardner’s Lamb of God explores the end of Christ’s ministry through the eyes of those who knew Him best.
I set a goal really early on in the podcast that our focus would always be on the Savior, and I think we’ve succeeded. But if there is a costar of the show, it would be the Apostle Peter, who, by my count, has been referenced on eleven different episodes. As I’ve noticed this trend, I’ve found it fascinating, because what do most people think of when they think of Peter? Denial? Sinking? Perhaps one of my coworker’s favorite phrases fits Peter best: “Passionate without accuracy.” So how is it that a man who is often characterized by his shortcomings has also been offered up time and time again as a model of what it means to be “all in”?
I think the answer may be found in Gardner’s answer to what it means to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“I’m going to answer this in maybe a bizarre way,” he said. “But I would say, for me to understand what it is to be all in, we have to acknowledge that sometimes we’re not.”
In that one sentence I think he touches on something that is crucial to our exploration of what it means to be all in—we, like Peter, will experience peaks and valleys in terms of our commitment, our belief, and our discipleship. We, like Peter, will have moments when the Spirit of God is burning like a fire within us and other moments where our belief feels like the dimmest flicker of light, growing weaker with each passing day. There will be days when we want to share what we believe with everyone we know and times when we don’t know what we believe. And I’m learning that a big piece of being all in is giving ourselves grace in the moments we don’t feel all in.
As we’ve talked about Peter on the show, as I’ve studied him in Come, Follow Me, and as I’ve pondered the portrayal of him on the television series The Chosen, I have gravitated toward him for the same reason our podcast guests seem to relate to him: He is imperfect but he is here for it all—seemingly just happy to be there, learning as he goes.
But it’s more than just that. I think we love the fact that Christ chose Peter first because if He chose someone like Peter—imperfect, passionate, sometimes even obstinate—He might also choose us. And maybe, if He didn’t give up on Peter for his shortcomings, He is less likely to give up on us. We love that Peter almost always repented immediately, because how many times have we immediately recognized the error of our ways and then promised to turn it around? And although more than likely we fall short again just a little ways down the road, heaven knows we’re trying—and deep in our hearts we know that has to be worth something.
Like Peter, we get really excited about the chance to follow the Savior, but then how quickly do we forget to keep our sights on Him? As musician Steven Sharp Nelson described, “I love that when the Savior was walking on the water, Peter’s like, ‘I want to come out to you. I can do that, I can walk on the water.’ I feel like that all the time. When I feel the Spirit, I feel like I could walk right out in that water and race to the Savior with miracles in my wake. But then I experience what Peter experienced when he saw the wind and waves boisterous. And he began to sink. And he began to sink deeper. . . .
“Sometimes I think ‘all in’ is when Peter jumped out on the water to walk to the Savior. And I think the tremendous moment, the ‘all in’ moment, was when Peter was literally all in the water. And he was sinking. And I’ve learned that the deeper we sink, the more the upward pull that the Savior gives us, the more we will feel that upward pull of the Savior. And Peter was all in, and I have felt that too. All in, not just all in the gospel, but all in maybe even over my head, trying to be like the Savior and failing miserably. But what did Peter say in that moment? He said, ‘Lord, save me.’ And I think being all in the gospel is having the hope with all of our heart, striving for the faith . . . that God is all in our lives enough that when we sink, He will pull us out.”
Patricia Holland once quoted the author Madeleine L’Engle, who said, “Peter was able to walk on the water until he remembered he didn’t know how.”1 Sister Holland then added, “When Jesus called Peter to come to Him across the water, Peter, for one brief, glorious moment, forgot he did not know how and strode with ease across the sea. This is how we are meant to be.”2
I’ve often wondered how that scene played out. Did Peter climb timidly over the edge of the boat or did he dive in headfirst? I love how basketball coach Mark Pope described it on his episode: “We love Peter in our family. We love him so much. And Peter is such an incredible example in the scriptures of trying to be all in in everything he does. When he sees the Savior walking across the water, he doesn’t sit in the boat. He’s like, ‘Can I come try? Will you let me come try it? Let me jump in and try.’”
I don’t think any of us have any idea what we are capable of or how the Lord might be able to use us until we get out of the boat and try.
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What does it mean to be "all in" the gospel of Jesus Christ in the latter days? The answers might surprise you. All In, the well-loved podcast from LDS Living, has explored this question with the help of Saints who are striving to live their faith every day—just like you. Now, in this collection of excerpts from All In guests, organized by topic, you can explore the question yourself. Perfect for gifting to friends, using as a nightly devotional, or picking it up when you need it, All In will help you define just what being "all in" means to you. Available now in Deseret Book stores and at DeseretBook.com.
- Walking on Water (New York: Bantam Books, 1982), 19.
- “Joy and Spiritual Survival” (Brigham Young University devotional, January 31, 1984), speeches.byu.edu.