“Hi, I’m Jamin and I’m a shame addict.” That’s what a friend once called me anyways. I thought it was ridiculous. You get addicted to things that you want to be addicted to, right? Things like sex, drugs, alcohol, and food leave you with some kind of high or pleasure to keep coming back to. Nobody wants to come back to shame. It never makes you feel good before it makes you feel bad. It just makes you feel bad and that’s it.
But after thinking about it, I realized he was right. I’m a shame addict. Shame has always been a good friend of mine and my worst enemy. He tells me to hate myself and in some kind of perverted sense of humility, I do it. “Whatever you say, Shame. You’re the only one I can truly trust in this world. You tell me the way it is. Or the way I think it must be. Because that whole unconditional love thing? That just doesn’t make any logical sense.”
But love is the way of the Father, and so we must learn to lean into love in our failings. Shame will keep us down, but Christ will raise us up, just as he did with his disciple, Simon.
Simon was one of Jesus’ very first followers and he quickly became the example disciple. He was one of the select three disciples Jesus took up on a mountain to pray with him (Matthew 17:1). When Jesus walked on water, he was the only disciple who tried to do the same (Matthew 14:29). He was the first to acknowledge Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). And when soldiers threatened to take Jesus prisoner, he jumped right in to defend him (John 18:10).
Jesus saw destiny in Simon and gave him the prophetic nickname, Peter, saying, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). But even Simon “The Rock” Peter cracked when faced with the anxiety of dying for Jesus (at least once Jesus disarmed him). When questioned about Jesus, he denied knowing him three times and then ran away to hide. This wasn’t a little sin. Jesus himself viewed such an action as an apostasy worthy of the judgment of Hell, which Peter had likely heard Jesus preach throughout his ministry: “whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33). And so the example disciple fell hard, while in the meantime, a criminal with a death sentence confessed Jesus as Lord (Luke 23:39-43).
It seemed at first that the Jesus movement has reached its end at the cross of Christ. Not only did Peter deny knowing Jesus, but Judas committed suicide, Jesus died, and the disciples were scattered just as Jesus prophesied they would be (Matthew 26:31).
They didn’t know where to go next, so they returned to their old lives and took up fishing, which was something they would have had to be pretty good at to make a living off of in the bustling market of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus found four of them. But apparently even the fish had given up on them, for they couldn’t catch anything. You can imagine Simon, rocking back and forth on the boat with his head in his hands, perhaps thinking to himself how much he hated the name Peter. Some “rock” God will build his church on. I never want to hear that name again.
Yet it was there in that deep shame that Jesus showed up—as did the fish! Jesus then prepared some of the fish for breakfast and sat down with his denier and began to restore him to his prophetic calling. And it was there over that redemptive meal that the shame that Peter acquired with three denials of Jesus was wiped away with three affirmations of Jesus.
Perhaps Jesus needed Peter to reaffirm him. Or perhaps Jesus knew Peter needed to hear himself reaffirm him. My money’s on both. Whatever the case, Peter was forgiven, reaffirmed and made ready for action once more. And not long later, we watch Peter’s ministry explode throughout the first part of the book of Acts, which centers around “The Rock” doing exactly what he was called to do: Build the church.
Peter could have responded differently. Overwhelmed with shame and guilt he could have said, “I’m not the right guy. I’m not worth it. Find someone else.” But instead, he received love and forgiveness and walked away from a life of shame. Brennan Manning, who struggled as an alcoholic, once said, “When I relapsed, I had two options: yield once again to guilt, fear, and depression—or rush into the arms of my heavenly Father; choose to live as a victim of my disease—or choose to trust in Abba’s immutable love” (Abba’s Child. p. 4.)
How have you sinned recently? Confess it before Jesus as you reaffirm him and then be forgiven as you continue forward in the mission of bringing Heaven to earth.