"But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.'” (Luke 5:8 ESV)
There is no hiding before the face of God. This thought can be quite unsettling. Though we can and do hide much from many of those around us, this is impossible with God. Peter experienced this startling revelation in the boat with Jesus. The sharp sense of his hidden shame burst forth in the dawning light of seeing who Jesus was and out of Peter’s mouth poured the most natural response, "Depart from me."
Peter’s response, though painful, is right. When face to face with holiness, one can’t help but feel the reality of their shame, brokenness, and impotence. This is why Adam and Eve dove for the bushes when they heard God walking in the Garden of Eden. Better not to be seen than to face the chasm that stands between our fallenness and God’s holiness. Better to be preserved in the shadows than burn in the light of our exposure.
Yet, consider Jesus’ response. It isn't new but as old as creation. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. As God drew near to Adam and Eve in their hiding, so also Jesus drew near to Peter. He didn’t deny Peter’s self-assessment but rather called him into a new way of living and seeing. Instead of departing, Jesus remained and invited Peter to remain with Him.
Many of our clients need help seeing Jesus in this way and we have the joy- and sorrow-riddled task of hearing our clients share the most pain-filled, shame-saturated parts of their story while, like Jesus, remaining with them. What a gift to get to image Christ in this way! To help our clients feel and understand that God does not depart. He does not tell them to go away. He is not ashamed to call them His own. He loves them, sees them, and invites them to follow Him.