If you are familiar with the Amazon Prime show “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” then you know the backstory. A 1960’s Jewish NYC housewife divorces her unfaithful husband and searches for a way to support herself and her two young children. She stumbles into stand-up comedy, finds increasing success, and is asked to be the opening act for a famous fictitious singer on his international tour. She and her rough-around-the-edges manager find themselves leaving the tiny island of Manhattan and landing on the glittering Vegas Strip. They not only enter a new world geographically but a whole new world of stardom.
After checking into their hotel and being shown to their glamorous room, they do what everyone does upon arriving in Vegas: head to the casino. As Midge and Manager Susie sit at the slots, pulling the lever over and over, waiting for their luck to change, they share a common refrain: “THAT should have been something.”
Cherry, orange, cherry. That should have BEEN something. Lemon, lemon, orange. THAT should have been something. Cherry, jackpot, kumquat. That should have been something. After finally winning a small bucket of coins, they move to the tables.
As Midge and Susie sidle up on opposite sides of a stranger making bets, we hear Susie’s rapid-fire questions to no one and anyone, “What’s a don’t-pass line? What’s a field? What are odds? Are odds good? What’s craps eleven?” In the end, we find these two lost souls back at the slot machine, uttering their same old refrain, “THAT should have been something.”
As I watched this clip two months ago, the underlying themes of the scene felt familiar. When I stumbled upon it again, one week into COVID-19 shelter-in-place mandates and my new vocation as a homeschooling parent, it felt way too close to home. THAT should have been something!
You can probably think of a million things in your life right now, both personally and professionally, where you want to yell either out of anger or despair, “That should have been something!” Spring break plans. End-of-school projects. Work benchmarks and deadlines. Sick loved ones. Too-distant friends. Loss of income. Loss of familiar routines. Sudden separation in relationships where you were finally starting to connect. Technology glitches. Changed plans. Broken promises. This year. This month. This week. This phone call, zoom meeting, e-mail. That should have been something.
We see a classic case of “that-should-have-been-something” when we see Peter in John 18, “Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, ‘You also are not one of this man's disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself... Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, ‘You also are not one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’ One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’ Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.”
Can you imagine the thoughts racing through Peter’s head? Like Mrs. Maisel’s manager, Susie, Peter panicked. Peter, the disciple who thought he would have done anything for Jesus, denied him three times. When given the opportunity to defend his Lord, the best he could do was, “Jesus who?” That should have been something!
Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came to save the world, was sentenced to death like a common thief. That night, as Jesus was sentenced and crucified, I can only imagine Peter thought, “THAT should have been something!”
I don’t know about you, but the “that-should-have-been-something’s” in my life shake me. They scare me. They create anxiety. They birth regret and frustration. They make me face my sinfulness and humanity--and those are not very feel-good things to face alone.
The good news is that like Peter, I don’t have to face them alone. And neither do you.
Despite Peter's denials, failures, and flounderings, Jesus says, “I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:18-19).
As we stare down another day, the struggles and joys that it will bring, take a deep breath. In spite of all the failures, floundering, and “that-should-have-been-something’s” flying in our faces, there is peace and redemption in Jesus. He takes our sinfulness and calls it forgiven. He takes our broken humanity and calls it perfectly whole. He takes our fears and anxieties and gives us His peace. He takes what we think “should have been something” and raises it from the dead, for His purpose and His glory.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid,” Jesus says (John 14:27). As Luther states, “the promise is certain and reliable, and is surely carried out because God carries it out.”
Like Midge and Susie at the tables in the casino, there is a lot these days that we don’t understand. But one thing is certain: in Christ we have the peace that passes all understanding. In the midst of it all our anxiety, the peace of the Lord is with us, now and always.