It’s Hard to Go Back After the Fall

It’s Hard to Go Back After the Fall

He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. Genesis 33:3

When I lost my job and had to go to treatment due to my opioid addiction, I was horribly embarrassed and ashamed. After I got out of treatment, I considered leaving town. Starting over – where no one knew my story – sounded very attractive. As appealing as a new start was, it wasn’t easy to just pick up and move, and if I’d have left, I’d have gone alone. My wife wasn’t going anywhere with me. So, I stayed, and discovered that going out in public was anxiety-inducing. Everyone is looking at me, judging me. I knew I needed God, but going to church was painful – It’s hard to go back after such a colossal failure. So, I’d arrive at church late, sit in back, and leave early, hoping no one would see me. Still, I was humble, and I sought recovery as I reentered society. I found that humility and repentance were the right choices.

I shouldn’t be surprised, but people were profoundly gracious, giving me a chance to change. I found that in working on my recovery, most people were cheering for me, hoping and praying for my success. As long as I was willing to humbly repent, others were on my side. The opposite could easily have been true as well though. If I’d have come back proud, entitled, and defiant, I’d have experienced a very different reception. If I’d have claimed to find recovery but then quickly relapsed, diverting opioids for my own use once again, my welcome back would have been short-lived. Returning home was difficult, but my reception was largely dependent on the manner in which I returned.

In today’s passage, Jacob too, returned home in humility, after running away in shame and fear years earlier. You’ll recall that Jacob had fled under threat of murder by his brother, whom he’d cheated out of his inheritance and blessing. Jacob could have tried to return proud and entitled, laying claim to his inheritance. Instead, though, he bowed before his brother, subjecting himself to Esau’s authority. It was the right move, as Esau embraced Jacob with open arms.

It’s hard to return home in shame, fear, or failure, but what are our options? If we run, we may forever lose the chance to redefine ourselves, healing the broken relationships we left behind. Humility and repentance are painful, but for our own good, we must accept the discomfort and move on. Going back may be painful, but we must remember the tone of our reception is largely dependent on the attitude we choose for our return.

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