I was in seventh grade, had just come out of homeroom, and was hurrying on my way because I was late to the next class.
I rounded the corner with all my books and papers stuffed here and there. At the top of the red-tile stairs, I tripped, then tumbled through upper-class kids ping-ponging off rails and trailing books, assignments, and papers on each step.
A bit dazed and bruised, I was flushed with adrenalin and embarrassment. I had fallen down the stairs.
A large, athletic junior or senior stopped to help me gather my papers, chewed pencils, and books. I couldn’t even look at him. I was grateful, but so stunned all I remember is brown hair and a sharp, plaid Madras shirt (that was the hot trend then).
Looking down and a bit shaken I gathered and stacked my stuff. I mumbled thanks. He mumbled something back. I think we were both surprised he stopped.
I stood up, started down the second flight, tripped—and fell again.
This time, my helper didn’t even look back. He shrugged, waved a regal dismissal, and walked on.
The first fall was painful and embarrassing. But the second fall burned with real shame. It said that the first trip wasn’t just a slip. That’s how you are, kid. No hope for you.
This time I gathered myself while hearing snickers and hoots and I headed across campus, bruised and late to my first class.
It’s still the second fall that gets me in my journey of faith.
I can believe Jesus died to cover my sin, but shame is a different thing. It’s the second, third, or fourth falls that keep me embarrassed, feeling inadequate, and like one who is a seventh-grader spiritually after all these years.
Believing Jesus died for my moral guilt before God, believing I am forgiven, and now righteous before God has become a central part of my progress in faith. Yet shame strips away the confidence that my faith should bring by saying:
Yeah, but everyone here knows better. Somewhere in heaven, you’re great stuff? How nice for you. Here, though, everyone sees you screw up and fall down. They see your weakness. They laugh when you’re hurt. Get over it.
You feel ashamed, hurt, embarrassed, and left behind because that’s who you are. You deserve what you got.
That strong, internal voice is the lie of shame in my heart.
Jesus took my guilt for sure. But He also took my shame. He lifted shame from me and gave me a place among His people as gifted, admired, essential, and rewarded.
When I believe He is enough, not just for the first fall, but also for the second—and third—and as many as come, then I find the relentless love I am looking for.
He changes me to look more like Him even as He took my sin and shame. I begin to step more confidently, less fearfully, and self-consciously into His love and calling. It’s grace for the second fall that makes all the difference.
It’s grace for the second fall that I hope people can see is changing my life.