Before I begin, I’d like to preface this testimony by saying that I share these personal details of my life and sinful past with a purpose in mind. This is not merely a confession to get guilt off my chest. This is not a cry for attention or consolation. This is a true story of God’s glory and relentless pursuit of me, a sinner. This is proof of the living God who loves me and cares for me.
Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me.
As a child, I recited the same definition of sin over and over again: “Sin is anything I say, do, or think that displeases God.” While this definition is not wrong, and is just simplified for children to understand, it implanted a wrong image of God in me as a little girl. “Say, do, or think”? I began to watch every little thought I had that was “bad.” I was afraid. I had to be good. I had to be fake. “Displeases”? I saw God frowning upon me. I saw God ready to punish me like a parent waiting with a rod, staring me down as I cried in the corner of the room. I grew up wanting to please God and people so intensely that at times, that desire to be good became crippling. I let myself become a doormat to friends who made fun of me about little things. I let myself laugh whenever my family said I was dumb or silly or forgetful. I let myself apologize for every little thing I did wrong, and only apologized more when people told me to stop apologizing so much. This terrible habit of fearful submission spiraled into me thinking I had to obey whatever my boyfriend at the time asked of me. And eventually, I made the biggest mistake of my life by letting myself say yes to sex before marriage.
And at the end of it all, was I good? Did I please my parents? Did I please God? Or did I please myself?
I’ll always remember this quote from one night at my youth group that changed my view on sin: “God commands us not to sin – not because He is just waiting for us to fall and is out to get us and punish us. God commands us not to sin because He knows it will hurt us.”
To hear the word “sin” in a context of love rather than of punishment was revolutionary to me. My sinful past came hurtling towards me, but this time I did not feel the shame that had gripped me and silenced me for years. Instead, I felt loved by my Father. Instead of thinking, “God is punishing me because I lost my virginity,” I realized the truth – God commanded me not to have sex before marriage because He knew what emotional turmoil would follow. Because He loves me, He does not want that pain and brokenness for my life. And even more importantly – God still loves me even though I have broken His commandments, and is just waiting for me to return home.
I would continue to struggle with these new realizations in the summer before college, swinging back and forth between feelings of shame and forgiveness. Old habits still remained, and I would cry and hide myself from the world whenever I remembered that I could not take back the sin I had committed. But God was still pursuing me, and He finally caught me at a fall conference I attended with my fellowship.
My group got to the conference late. We snuck in through the back as the speaker, Jim Rinella, continued his message. I praise God for His perfect timing, because the first words I heard Jim say were, “Sex made me stay longer than I wanted to stay.” At that moment, my heart cried out to God. I knew He wanted me there at that very second, surrounded by those very people, listening to that very message on healing sexual brokenness. Jim continued to teach about the prodigal son, quoting the following Scripture:
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
While he was still a long way off. What an amazing image – the father stood at the door, hoping and waiting to see his beloved son long before the son was even in view. I saw Jesus Christ standing at the door with His hands raised to His face, shielding His eyes from the sun and peering into the distance, longing for me to come to Him before I even knew I needed Him.
Looking back now, I see for just how long God has been waiting for me. His pursuit of my heart did not only begin when I sinned. It did not even begin when I was born into a sinful body and a broken world. It began before He created the world, before He created man.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
And so I realize the paradoxical thinking of my childhood years. How could God have created me so intricately and with so much care if He was only out to punish me? How could a loving Creator want to destroy His own creations? And hear this – why would He send His only son to die in our place and receive the necessary price of sin for us? It simply does not make sense to see God through a lens of fear of condemnation. The only possible conclusion is that God wants us and loves us, and commands us not to sin because He wants us to live completely and to be with Him in Heaven someday.
I am still a sinner, and as long as I am on this Earth I will continue to sin because that is human nature. But I can live in confidence that God loves me and is constantly at work in my heart and has good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11). I can rejoice in my suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance (Romans 5:3). And as I continue to seek Him, allowing Him to sanctify me for His glory day by day rather than striving to sanctify myself in order to please God and people, I can look forward to that final day when I can stand before Him and hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
I leave my testimony with you in hopes that you too will come to know this amazing, loving God, and see the great work which has been completed for your sake through His son Jesus Christ.
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.