6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
Mark 16: 6 – 7 (NIV)
Bill W., the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), tells his story of alcoholism and redemption in the AA Blue Book (the primary text resource used by AA fellowships across the world). His story starts with his participation, as a soldier, in the first World War. He returns from Europe to the US and soon immerses himself in the activities of creating a life for himself. He has also returned with a discovered predilection for alcohol. His fortunes improve and he is soon established in business. Alcohol, however, steals his success and through various cycles finds himself at a place of significant loss and depression. Hospitalizations, short-lived periods of abstinence and the gradual loss of his material wealth make no change to the “necessity” for alcohol in his life. It is at his lowest point that he has an unexpected call from an old friend, whom he had known to also be an alcoholic. He has not seen the friend for a few years. What a surprise it is to hear that his friend is sober! He meets with his friend and what follows is Bill’s description of their encounter:
“But my friend sat before me, and he made the pointblank declaration that God had done for him what he could not do for himself. His human will had failed. Doctors had pronounced him incurable. Society was about to lock him up. Like myself, he had admitted complete defeat. Then he had, in effect, been raised from the dead, suddenly taken from the scrap heap to a level of life better than he had ever known! Had this power originated in him? Obviously, it had not. There had been no more power in him than there was in me at that minute; and this was none at all.”
Bill goes on to describe his own process of redemption and his eventual establishment of AA, with others.
The apostle Peter had a similar experience. In the above passage a resurrected Christ encountering the women at the tomb instructs them to “tell the disciples and Peter” that he has risen and will meet with them. Why was it important for him to include the phrase “and Peter”? It is probably because Christ recognized that Peter’s denial as predicted (Mark 14:27 – 31) and as occurred (Mark 14:66 – 72) had resulted in significant feelings of shame and guilt in the disciple. Verse 72 of Mark 14 indicates that Peter “broke down and wept”. His deception caused him a deep distress. This man who had demonstrated great insight into Christ’s divinity and was so protective of his leader had chosen opacity over transparency, dishonesty over integrity. How does one come back from that? How is one restored? Christ does this through the specificity of his invitation. Not only does he want the disciples to know that he is risen, but he wants Peter, especially, to be aware. He wants him to internalize his place of belonging, despite his actions and the resulting self-excoriation.
The world is full of redemption stories. There are many people who have found integrity (wholeness of existence and purpose) after leading fragmented and duplicitous lives. These stories are even more phenomenal when these people demonstrate their restoration though very public and visible usages for God’s kingdom. Had Bill W. not stepped into his friend’s change and invitation, millions of alcoholics and drug addicts over the years would not, today, have safe fellowships to help each other. Had Peter not responded to Christ’s invitation (John 21:15-19) and overcome his internalized guilt/shame, the early establishment of the church would have been at risk. Countless others would have suffered from the lack of leadership for a fledgling movement that has evolved into a formative force of modern civilization.
What spaces do deception and fragmentation occupy in your life? Does it feel hopeless, without possibility for change? Do the shame and guilt of your past overcome your self-concept as a person who is worthy of love and good things? Are you constantly looking over your shoulder, fearful of being discovered or expecting “the other shoe to drop”? Do you possess an internal dialogue that is critical and accusatory, emerging when you attempt to improve or change? Exposing these internal mechanisms is the first step. Find someone in whom you can confide and who can be a safe place for you to start your own journey from fragmented deception to singular integrity.