IVP - Strangely Dim - Petered Out

April 6, 2006

Petered Out

This year, to mark the events remembered during Holy Week, I will be playing the apostle Peter in our church's play, The Living Last Supper. For me it's a promotion of sorts. Last year I played Matthew, the kooky tax collector: I stood up, said my peace and sat down. Meanwhile Peter stood up, said his peace, danced around, sang a solo and wept bitterly. The only bitter weeping I did was over my lack of time in the spotlight.

This year is very different. This year nobody is just standing up, saying their peace and sitting down again. This year we're all over the stage--every single one of us. And this year I'm playing Peter, who I'm told should be played at times whiney, at times dim-witted, at times cocky and surly. I'm developing a bit of a complex about what the casting director thinks of me as a person.

I'll be glad when the play is over, not just because then I can stop singing but because frankly, I'm getting Petered out.

Acting doesn't come naturally to me, but to authentically portray such a significant, familiar person has been especially challenging. This is Peter, after all: the rock on which Jesus would build his church, the first pope, the undisputed leader of the earliest Christian community. But this same Peter denied Jesus, acted without thinking, lied impulsively, could never quite figure out what anybody was really talking about. He was at times whiney, at times dim-witted, at times cocky and surly. He is a sinner, he is a saint. He is, in short, a lot like me.

Ever since I was a kid I've identified with Peter. When I'm feeling self-assured, I think of Peter saying matter-of-factly, "You are the Christ," as though he and Jesus were surrounded by idiots. When I'm feeling especially special, I think of Jesus saying to Peter, "Blessed are you, Peter . . . on this rock I will build my church." When I get so mad I could cut someone's ear off, I think of Peter.

I also think of Peter when I've screwed up: when I hem and haw my way through an uncomfortable conversation; when I distance myself from my friends, my family, my faith. I think of Peter when I'm trying to stay undercover and when I'm trying to grab the spotlight. When I think of Peter, I think of paradox, and when I think of paradox, I think of myself.

Yep, playing Peter cuts a little close to the ear, so to speak. Getting up in front of a room full of people to brag about myself and then, moments later, to deny everything I've said I believe, makes me a bit uncomfortable. Mix in a little singing, and I'm a nervous wreck.

They say that both John Calvin and Augustine of Hippo see a connection between knowledge of the self and knowledge of God. I might add the knowledge of others to the mix, because it's in getting to know Peter these last several weeks that I've come to know myself in a different way. And in the process of learning Peter and relearning myself, I'm coming into a fresh appreciation of all that God has to deal with, and all that God has already dealt with.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at April 6, 2006 12:26 PM Bookmark and Share


if we all would take ourselves as seriously as you do with your consideration of your role... what a powerful thought. I can understand your thoughts and feelings about playing Peter, that's an intense charge, but I've witnessed your rehearsals. Actually, I've got the video if you'd like to buy it back from me!?! complete with the wonderful silliness. You do the role proud and I look forward to the day you and he can discuss it. With a little luck I'll be nearby to videotape that one too... free of charge! Anyone who reads this, you really should come see Dave Petered, he's anything but out.

Comment by: ken at April 6, 2006 6:31 PM

Dave you will be a great Peter after all your learning and relearning. God is behind this project and he put you in it, at this time, playing Peter, for a reason. Perhaps to get this insight or to share it with someone else. I needed a little insight today so THERE you are. By-the-way read weird Wednesday - 789 is Liam's favorite joke!haha I am not sure that I am happy or scared that he shares a joke with you and your friends?!?! I'll pray about that one for sure!
I'll send you my blog - not nearly as witty as yours but a way to keep in touch when outta touch.

Comment by: SueD at April 7, 2006 2:31 PM

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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