A friend in recovery, who was, like me, once in a professional ministry position, shared with me today how he’s struggling with some feelings of guilt and shame over letting people down whom he once worked with. I could certainly relate.
If you have ever been a spiritual leader of any sort, the shame that follows a relapse is immense in and of itself. Add to that the loss of that job, that position, that “calling,” and the knowledge that you’ve disappointed and even hurt so many, and that shame becomes crushing.
As he was speaking an image filled my spirit which I believe was from God. It was a picture of Jesus’ disciples huddled together in a dark, locked room following his crucifixion. During these dark days they all fled from the side of their friend. I could feel their pain and shame over their hiding. I could hear them saying to each other and to themselves a number of things, such as
- How could I desert him like that?
- Was all that time spent with him for nothing?
- Just weeks ago I felt on top of the world, like my life had purpose and meaning, but now…?
- I failed miserably. I’m obviously not meant to be part of anything important in the way Jesus was.
- He picked the wrong person to be his friend
- I’m a bad person
I’ve felt all of these things over the past few years. These feelings still creep up on me from time to time, as they did my friend this morning. Perhaps you feel them, too.
But do you remember what happens in that room full of doubt and fear and shame? Jesus appears to these huddled together and his first words to them all are
Peace be with you.
Peace. God comes to them, and to you and I and my friend this morning, and says “Peace.” He knows very well all they and we have done and his greatest desire for us at the time of our greatest distress and shame is that we know peace.
And then, because he knows we may have misheard or misunderstood or mistrust his intent, he says it again. But he adds something just as extraordinary:
Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.
What’s that, Jesus? I’m sitting here in a dark room, locked away from the outside, ashamed of myself and my behavior, fearful that others will find me and expose me for the fraud I am, and fully aware of how at your greatest hour of need I scattered to save myself, and you still want me on your team? You still see me as part of your Father’s plan?
I can’t comprehend the lavishness and indiscriminate grace of God most of the time but I am making progress when I can rest in it or be reminded of it some of the time. This morning, because of a friend sharing his shame with me over the phone, I got a glimpse of it again and wanted to write it down.
Peace be with you.