My friends and I have this wacky tradition—we call it “Spot your Doppelgänger.” We all have people on campus that look just enough like us to be confusing, and we make a game out of finding them. I, miraculously, have yet to find my campus Doppelgänger—but when we started talking about these texts and themes with John, I discovered my biblical Doppelgänger.
I last read David’s Psalm 139 with PCM during our annual Fall Retreat, and I remember being overwhelmed by the emotion gripping David. David doesn’t say, “I am the king.” David doesn’t say, “I am great.” David says:
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you (Psalm 139: 11–12)
David is battered by shame and doubt. David is trying to hide from God! David, in the words of Lisa Sharon Harper, was an “unlikely leader,” “a confessed adulterer,” “rapist,” and “murderer.” This is a “far cry” from the “shalom” God is calling us to. David’s self-image is so worn down that he struggles to recognized God’s pure, perfect love. This is not new to me: friends, this is the image of my biblical Doppelgänger. Covered in shame, hiding from my own self and from vulnerability with others, I know what is to be like the deeply sinful David. David struggled. So do I. And don’t we all?
I would like to share with you my response to Psalm 139, written at Fall Retreat; you will find it in your bulletin if you would like to follow along.
Shattered, Scattered a million stars. Knit together, Whole, on earth a single sun— on earth a single son. Broken body, Broken heart, Broken soul— Heal me; Mend me; Draw me into you. Tear down my walls. Redeem my fear and my failures. Throw back my cloak of truth and lies— Unmask my scarred face. Clip the strings of my control. Swim through me. Dance with me. Sing, cry, shout with me. Clench your fist— make your palms bleed your knuckles raw. Unwind, loosen, detach— breathe with me; feel your lungs expand, contract; rest your eyes. Push out—dispel evil. Pull in—consecrate me. Be still and know me. Be still and let me see you hear you know you. Please?
Friends, I have some good news and some challenging news for all of us.
The good new is that God loves us all right to the core of our beings, and we were made for shalom, peace, and love with ourselves as part of our relationship with God. Harper says “Every relationship created by God is strung together in a web of intimate relationships.” The tapestry of our relationships is beautiful, and that includes our relationships with ourselves, and with others, and with our God.
This is good. This brings me hope in my shame.
But there is a challenge here. Harper cites researcher Brené Brown as saying “Shame is a social concept—it happens between people—it also heals best between people.” In many ways, this is great news! There is nothing inherently wrong with us. Made in the image and likeness of God, our natural state does not include shame. Instead, our natural state is relationship with God. But this news is also a challenge: to confront my shame, I need people. And for others to confront theirs, they need me. This is a necessary and desirable vulnerability, and yet it is scary.
Not one of us wants to be so weak and so broken that we need a savior to love us and redeem us the way Jesus does. But aren’t we all? As we move into the Lenten season this week, I would encourage each of us to think about our need for a restorative savior, one who brings shalom and without whom we cannot be whole. How can we listen to God’s voice over the voice of our shame?
So I leave you with this: who helps you confront your shame? Who lifts up the Lord’s love for you? And how can you do that for others?
Said another way: How are each of us rejoicing in the shalom of Eden but mourning its loss? How are each of us the woman at the well, thirsting for a living water? And how are each of us David, drowning in shame and longing for the restorative shalom with ourselves?