As a girl, raised in a large Christian family, my parents were faithful to make sure that we went to church every single week. They diligently read me the Bible and taught me to memorize Bible verses. When I was three years old, I remember hearing our pastor talk about hell and I was scared that I would go there when I died. I asked God to forgive me for being a bad girl and told him that I wanted to go to heaven when I died. I was later baptized in our church at the age of eight.
Throughout my growing up years I was involved in every possible type of Christian program or service that was out there. I went to church regularly, taught Bible classes for kids, played music for the church and worked at a Bible camp every summer. In my heart, I thought that I was making God very happy by doing all of these good things for Him.
When I was 15 years old, I started to experience a lot of guilt and shame over things in my life that I knew God would think were sin. I kept these sins well hidden. I didn’t want anyone to think that I wasn’t a good, Christian, girl. Good girls didn’t struggle with hate, anger and pride. Christian girls didn’t struggle with depression and anorexia.
My secrets plagued me. On the outside I continued to teach Bible classes to kids, smile and go to church, but on the inside, I wondered why I didn’t “feel” like I knew Jesus. Other Christians said that I should feel free, but I didn’t. I felt like a slave. I was stuck feeling like a slave to my sin and like an actor, pretending to be good so that others would think I was.
When I prayed, it felt empty, like God wasn’t listening to my prayers. I tried to read my Bible, but nothing made sense. Sins that I kept so well hidden I would quickly tell God sorry for, but the next day I was back, making the same mistake all over again. I couldn’t be good on my own and I knew it. I began to ask myself, why I even tried to be good anymore? Could it be that all this time I had not been saved at all?
I remember the scripture verse, Isaiah 64:6 had an impact on me. It explained God’s thoughts regarding my attempt to be good.
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
My “righteous acts” or “good works” were like a filthy rag compared to how good and pure God’s standard was.
Also, Ephesians 2:8-9 clarified the process of coming to a peaceful relationship with Jesus. It said,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
I could never be as pure as God required. I could never earn God’s approval. It was not through my good deeds, but through faith in Jesus. Another verse in the Bible also helped me see that what I really needed to do was to repent, turn away and ask God to make me new.
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” Acts 3:19.
I began to understand that repentance wasn’t just saying I was sorry, but it was a total turning away from my sin and surrendering the control of my life to Jesus.
One night, in the year 2001, my pride finally broke. I understood that being a “good person” and praying a prayer had never saved me. I could never be good enough to earn my salvation and that is exactly what I had been trying to do.
For years I had been trying to please my parents and other Christians around me but had never been broken over my sins against God. Jesus died on the cross and rose again as payment for my sins. How could I ever be good enough to pay him back for something like that?
That night, I stood in my driveway and looked up at the stars. Sobbing, I turned my face to the sky and told God everything. I shared all of my sins with Him and all of the hopelessness I had felt. This time I didn’t just say that I was sorry, I repented. I begged God to forgive me and change me forever. I was finally willing to give Him complete control of my life and I didn’t want to ever go back to my foolish pride.
After I prayed, I went into my house, tears still streaming down my face, and told my family everything. I told them of all my “secret sins” and that from now on things were going to be different. I don’t know if they understood, but they listened.
From that day on, my life was never the same. My heart longed to know and understand God better. When I read my Bible, the stories were exciting and began to make sense! It was almost as if I were reading the Bible for the very first time. The sins that had once had such a strong grip on me slowly began to fade. My depression was gone, and my anorexia disorder began to slowly improve.
The Bible says that when we give Jesus’ control of our life, He cleans us up and takes the sin away. Psalm 103:12,
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
I was finally free from the guilt my sins held over me and free to just be a child of God without the burden of trying to earn His forgiveness or love.
Now, I live for God and serve Him out of love and gratitude. Even though I still make mistakes and my pride might still raise its ugly head at times, I’m thankful for true freedom and that I don’t have to try to earn love or forgiveness from Jesus. His forgiveness is a free gift that I don’t deserve, but I’m ever so glad to have.