Isolated. Alone. Drunk and/or stoned. This was a regular way of life for me for quite some time. It was my best solution to distance myself from the people who loved me most, while at the same time distancing myself from the constant disappointment that I brought to those relationships.
I was full of shame and disappointment—disappointment in myself and fully in touch with how much I had disappointed others. It was painful and the only way that I knew how to deal with it was not to deal with it at all, but to hide from it. Drugs, alcohol, and other forms of addiction helped me escape this reality, but also furthered the disappointment and pain. It’s a vicious cycle that many who suffer from addiction can identify with.
Then there was a day when the pain was greater than the fear of looking at these things. The search for help and the accompanying hand of grace and mercy came only due to an act of desperation. At the time I was so scared that I couldn’t see the hands of God working in my life—through the spirit of inspiration that came to me, through the smiles and souls of those that were willing to freely offer me help, through the experience of others who had been on a similar journey and were happy to share their experience, strength, and hope, and through the sacramental life of the Church.
Before I got sober I was all too familiar with how I had sinned so badly. What I was not aware of was how much I was actually loved.
The disciples of Jesus were granted this understanding when Christ appears to them upon his resurrection (John 20:19-23):
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
[Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
In addition to being scared and isolated, we can believe that the disciples were also in a room full of shame, coming to terms with the fact that they turned their backs on the Lord at Calvary. Jesus, knowing this, doesn’t come back to remind them of their wrongdoing and disloyalty. Rather, he brings a calm “Peace be with you” or “Shalom” (the Hebrew term that not only means “peace” but also implies wholeness, harmony, and completeness).
What a radically different reaction than what the disciples must have thought they deserved! He leads with his wounds—the wounds that hold all the dysfunction and sin of humanity—and, in an instant, basically allows the disciples to understand “I know how badly you have sinned. What I want you to know is how much you are loved. My mercy is greater than your sins!”
With every act of mercy is the call to share it. Upon the mercy that Jesus gifts us he asks that we do the same—forgive the sins of others (and forgive yourself) and break free from the resentments that will keep you from living a joyful, grace-filled life. Practice the principles of honesty, humility, and open-mindedness and you will know surrender.
In a nutshell, what Christ is presenting is what those in recovery know to be the Twelve Steps. We are sent out to bring the same love and mercy to others that we have been offered by God as we understand Him. We are not called to live a life of isolation but a life that goes out, that shares with others, and that participates in community.
Just like the disciples—who went on to establish the Church that stands today and make the gospel, or good news, known to all—we are granted precious moments of grace where we are invited to live our lives in the peace, harmony, and wholeness that our Lord came to establish.
Some call it salvation. Some call it the communion of Saints. Some call it the Church. Some call it working the Twelve Steps.
Photo Credit: Richo.Fan