Our world had been torn completely upside-down. Fear, loneliness, guilt, shame- I’m certain it was there.
My newly divorced mother had carried me into church with my “big” four-year old brother at her side. We were tagging along on my precious mommy’s search for truth.
I wonder if I cried and clung to my mother’s legs as my own three-year old does some days, or if I was simply happy to go play with the other kids and listen to the Bible story. I don’t remember. But I do remember the Bible storybook that they gave me and how we would read it before bed most nights.
And I remember a few years later- in the upper Sunday school room of a different church- begging God to take my sins away.
The flannel board had been set up on the easel in the front of the room.
On one side was “me.”
On the other side was “God.”
In the middle was a giant gap showing that my sins made it impossible for me to earn salvation on my own- no matter how hard I tried.
Those sins of a six year-old (lying, anger, stealing my brother’s favorite robot…) looked huge in my mind, and it was then and there that I decided I wanted Jesus to come into my heart and save me!
Each week I begged God once again to take away my sins and to save me, for I longed to go to heaven. There was no doubt in my mind that Jesus died on the cross, making a way for that to happen.
Weeks turned into years. As life got even more confusing and difficult, our family got really involved in church. And before I knew it, I had learned to carefully and accurately play the part of the “good little Christian girl.”
I did the right things, said the right things, and acted the part perfectly. I stayed away from all the “bad” things: drugs and alcohol, smoking and s*x… yet my heart was continually searching for more. Inside I still felt torn, battered, ugly, and afraid.
I felt pulled in so many different directions. No longer knowing which way was right-side-up, I became the epitome of hypocrisy- looking good on the outside, but inside full of sin and hate and pride.
Fear alone kept me from running completely away from all I knew to be good and true. So instead I hid. I learned to smile through the rejection and pain. And even convinced myself that I was a “good” girl- for I WAS seeking God, wasn’t I!?
When that sin did happen to rear its ugly head (which it did frequently), after blaming it on someone else, I stuffed the guilt and thought that it was normal to feel distant from God.
Secretly I envied those that had incredible stories to tell about how God worked in their hearts. The ones that had fallen farther than I could comprehend… the ones whose lives were steeped in drugs and alcohol, s*x and abuse… the ones whose lives God changed in a glorious instant. There was no doubt of God’s incredible work in their lives, for it was evidenced all around them!
I had just been a little six-year old when I made that most important decision… how much sin did He really have to save ME from?
Even as a teenager I battled with this in my mind. I hadn’t robbed a bank or killed anyone. In fact, even though I at times hung with the wrong crowd, I was probably seen as “better” than anyone in my high school class.
But, if I was a “good” girl, one that proclaimed Jesus at that, why did I feel so awful?
What I hadn’t realized was that the sins that were hidden in my heart, the ones that I couldn’t even acknowledge were there, were piling higher and higher.
My heart hurt from the sin inside of me, and from striving to play the “perfect role” for so long. I fell into a tangled up heap of despair.
Thankfully, without me even knowing it, God had beautifully been at work. Little moments in time were dropped in my life as He patiently guided my heart back to truth. I slowly and painfully acknowledged what I had so readily accepted so many years ago in an upstairs Sunday school room- it wasn’t about ME and the good I could do- it was all about HIM and the gift of HIS sacrifice.
God slowly, by His pure grace alone, touched my aching soul. Drop-by-drop His truth filled my heart, and I was crushed under the weight of my sin. For I was NOT good. Even just one “little” sin was enough to make me eternally guilty before my awesome and Holy God. My sins were great and my debts were piled high- so very high.
It was there, under the enormous weight of my sin, that I saw my tangled up life for what it truly was.
I loved God. I really did.
I desired to please Him. I really did.
But I had allowed my fear of man and my love for self to stop me from truly living for Him.
Instead, I spent my time struggling to earn grace, when it had already freely been given. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Through puddles of tears on Bible pages and scribbles of prayers in journals, God showed me more of Himself… His awesome, holy, unbelievably powerful self. And amidst His indescribable greatness, when I felt that fear of His awesomeness, and when I didn’t think I could bear the burden of my sin any longer, He showed me that His grace is sufficient for me.
He rescued me. (Romans 10:9)
It was then that I realized I needed Christ for not only the day that I chose to follow Him, but for each and every moment thereafter as well!
I deserve death, dear friends. (Romans 6:23) Whether my sin is blatant and obvious, or grows like a weed in my heart. BUT GOD, He sent His Son to take on the punishment for my sin. MY SIN. And for yours too. But, He didn’t stay dead. No, He conquered death. He conquered sin. And He changes and rescues hearts every day, of which I am just one tiny example.
I can’t help but lift my hands in praise to Him!
He had a plan when He brought our broken and lost family to church so many years ago. And who else would have known that a precious storybook Bible and a flannel board would make such an impact on this girl’s little heart!?
One day every knee will bow before Him and every tongue will confess that “Jesus is Lord.” (Philippians 2:10) Don’t wait until it is too late! Will you choose to bow today?
I really struggled writing “my story.” It does not seem grand and glorious, as so many others. Yet, tears stream down my face as I share a glimpse into all that God has and continues to do in my life. There aren’t words enough to express all that has happened in my heart as God throughout many years, continually rid me of myself and drew me to Himself. Yet, tears also pour out, for if I’m honest, there are still days that I feel just like I did twenty years ago. Being a wife and a mom seem to highlight the selfishness in me, even though these people closest to me are the ones I love the most. And I still battle looking for acceptance in all the wrong places. And so I cling to the promise that His grace continues to be sufficient for me, and that I need Him today and I will need Him tomorrow just as much as I did in my yesterdays. I choose today to live for Him and for His glory!! He has my heart!
Oh, dear friends, no matter who you are or what brought you here today, it is by no mistake. It was the hand of a God who loves you and is tugging on your heart.
Maybe it’s a little nudge, or maybe you’ve found yourself in a heaping, twisted mess. I wish I were there to talk and hold your hand and walk with you through the pain.
Let’s mix our tears together, as we rely on the One whose mercies are new every morning… the One who is worthy of our hearts!
I’d be honored to pray for you and to talk from afar!!!
And I’d love to hear YOUR most important story.