The Scarlet Letter
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel . . . Micah 5:2
The addict, new to recovery, often finds crippling shame. As the haze of the addiction fades, he begins to see more clearly see what he’s done, and he’s devastated by it. Adding to this shame, is the realization that everyone else knows too. Even if he maintains sobriety, everyone will always think of him as an Addict. He feels that he will spend the rest of his life with a capital “A” tattooed on his forehead.
The guilt can push the addict back into relapse, or, it can be used as a motivator. Grief over the past can and should be used to produce repentance. To pursue authentic transformation though, the addict must believe that things can get better. The addict must have hope.
This, I think, is part the message of today’s passage. Written 700 years before Christ, Micah predicted that the coming messiah would be born in Bethlehem, which was a humble birth for one already conceived in scandal (Mary was already pregnant when she married Joseph). Jesus grew up surrounded by whispers of what others thought about his mother. Though he came from the wrong side of the tracks, Micah insisted that Jesus would become king.
Though Christ came from a sordid past, he followed God’s will. I’m not suggesting the addict’s failure is the same as Christ’s humble beginnings, I’m just saying that God often picks those whom the world would least suspect. The Bible is full of stories of God using those who struggled. Jonah ran from God, David committed adultery and murder, and Paul persecuted Christians, yet these are the heroes of our faith. God seems to love transforming those with a shameful past.
We may have done horrible things, but this does not disqualify us from redemption. We may not become kings, but if we will follow God, we can find new life in him. We don’t have to live in the crippling shame of the old life. If we will, we can know the peace, joy, and hope that can only be found in abandoning ourselves to follow God.