Two months have passed since I posted part one of this series. I’ve just been too busy, having too much fun. It is summer time, after all. Anyway, here I am with part two, my personal story. Please take a moment to read part one if you haven’t done so. It sets the foundation for all subsequent posts on this topic and also introduces why I have chosen to write about it. Now, let’s just dive right in.
I was once a carnal Christian just like the ones I wrote about in part one. It is only by the grace of God that I am changed. His love has transformed me, and continues to shape me into the person I am today. I’m going to share some things from my past that up until now, only a handful of people have known.
My relationship with God began at a very young age. I honestly can not recall a time when I did not believe. I was enrolled in Christian school at age three, and began learning about Jesus and the Bible from that time on. At age 11, I began getting more serious about pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ. I decided to get baptized at age 12. It was at this point that my family began to follow my lead in pursuit of God. Throughout middle and high school I was very active in my church, participating in youth group, choir, drama, evangelism, and mission trips. At that time, living a life of purity and holiness was a high priority of mine.
During my senior year of high school, I began dating the guy who would become my first serious boyfriend. I’m going to refer to him as “Boyfriend-1.” I had dated a few other guys before him, but “Boyfriend-1” was my first long term relationship. Honestly, he was a great, big distraction. The more time I spent with him, the less time I focused on my relationship with the Lord. We dated for two and a half years, from the time I was 17 until age 20. Our relationship became sexual about a year into it. I was 18 years old. I knew that it was wrong, but I managed to justify my actions because I believed that we would one day be married.
If I could only use one word to describe my relationship with “Boyfriend-1,” the word would be “volatile.” When things were good, they were very good; but when they were bad… well… I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. It became glaringly obvious that “Boyfriend-1” was not the man I wanted to marry. I tried to break up a few times, but he always managed to talk his way out of it and convince me to keep trying to make it work. It wasn’t until the day he took me to look at diamond rings that I was finally able to break it off. I couldn’t let him buy me a ring. I knew that there was no way I’d ever willingly choose to spend the rest of my life in that relationship.
I spent the year that followed the break up (1996) in self-destruction and self-sabotage. I had so many conflicting feelings. Pain and sadness, mixed with relief and the joy that it was over. I had felt so trapped and suffocated for so long and I finally felt free. I also felt like I had wasted the past two and a half years. All my life I had been so cautious; and now, I wanted to be reckless. So I resolved not to think so much. If I felt like doing something, I would act first, think later. As I’m sure you can imagine, this mindset led me to make some very poor decisions. I became caught up in the party lifestyle. I was drinking heavily, occasionally experimenting with drugs, and at times, having casual sex. I felt that since I’d already messed up by sleeping with “Boyfriend-1”, it didn’t really matter what I did anymore.
This reckless lifestyle led me to place myself in some unsafe situations. One resulted in date rape. I’m not going to go into too much detail about that, except to say that it wasn’t a date. It was a guy who I thought was my friend and nothing more. I believed I was safe with him; but I was wrong. I said “NO” and he forced himself on me anyway. Even so, I blamed myself. It took quite a while for me to understand that I was not responsible for his actions. At the same time, I know that if I had not been living the way that I was living, I would never have been in that situation in the first place. So, I take responsibility for my part.
I quickly grew tired of the party scene. All of this “fun” I was having was shallow and unsatisfying. I was unhappy; and when I thought about the last time I was truly happy, I remembered the joy that I felt when I was actively pursuing a growing relationship with the Lord. I missed that, and I wanted it back. But something happens when you turn your back on everything you believe and spend a year living like an entirely different person. You start to forget the things you once knew; and you begin to lose sight of who you really are.
I remember thinking, “I want to return to God, but I’m such a mess. I need to fix myself up first.” I also thought, “I will NEVER forgive myself for doing these things!” As soon as that thought entered my mind, I heard the voice of God for the first time in over a year as He lovingly rebuked me by asking the following question: “Who do you think you are to not forgive yourself – when I have already forgiven you?” It was a question that exposed my selfish pride and reminded me of the merciful love that He had already extended me. That was it for me. It was all over. I gave my life back the Lord. No more running. No more games. It was the beginning of my journey to restoration.
I’d like to say that as soon as I returned, everything was set right; but that’s not how it works. It’s a process. God received me back immediately, but I still had to work through the effects of that year on my life. My mind and emotions bore the greatest consequences. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was broken and full of shame. I felt completely worthless. I had also developed some terrible habits that needed to be broken in order for me to follow Jesus with a clear conscience. It was a long and difficult process, but God gently and faithfully dealt with me. He reminded me of things that I had forgotten, lessons learned, and experiences we had together in the past.
He looked inside of me and showed me things that he saw – beautiful, wonderful things that I could barely believe were in me. Things that I thought had been lost for good, like my innocence, were still there. I had never lost them. I had only believed lies that they were gone. He called me beautiful, lovely, innocent, holy, pure, treasured, faithful, strong, mighty woman of God. I had a hard time receiving it, because that’s not who I saw when I looked at myself. So He said it over and over again – until I quit arguing. He said it over and over again – until I started to believe Him. “Beautiful. Lovely. Innocent. Holy. Pure. Treasured. Faithful. Strong. Mighty woman of God. This is who you are.” He said it over and over again – until I began to understand my value again.
To Be Continued. . .