When We Fail
I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me. Luke 22:34
In my addiction, I felt constant shame. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I couldn’t stop. This caused me to live in a state of constant conflict with myself. My only options were to go through the discomfort of getting sober (which I remained unwilling to do) or to use again, temporarily numbing my conscience. Then, my day of reckoning came as my addiction was dragged into the light, increasing my shame tenfold.
Under the weight of that shame and guilt, I resolved that I would use it as motivation to repent. I could have allowed the shame to win and just given up. I’ll never be anything but an addict. That’s not what I did though. I knew what it was like to be known for my failure. At that point, I decided I wanted my life to be marked instead, by recovery.
In Luke 22, Jesus predicted both Judas’ and Peter’s failures. He said that one of them would betray him and that the other would deny knowing him. Both prophecies came true but they led to very different outcomes. Judas failure led to his destruction, while Peter recovered, becoming the foundation of the church.
What was the difference? Both men had followed Christ, and both gave in to their self-destructive nature. Both must have experienced tremendous shame. One however, recovered from his failure and the other one didn’t.
The difference was in their posture towards Christ. One, in his shame and guilt, abandoned his faith, turning from Jesus. The other, recovered, returning to Jesus, even in his shame. I don’t doubt that Judas could have found forgiveness, but his remorse never led him to repentance. In his shame, he hanged himself, ending his story with failure. Judas’ name is now synonymous with betrayal. We do remember Peter’s failure, but his failure is not what defined his life.
We will all experience the shame of failure. When we do, we’re faced with the same choice as Judas and Peter. We can surrender to our shame, allowing it to destroy us, or, we can do what it takes to repent and return to Christ. Our lives can be defined by our greatest failures, or we can be defined by our recovery. The choice is ours.