Wow, this last year has been awesome. God blessed me to finish my education and shortly after, I was awarded a position in Tokyo that was EXACTLY what I wanted. God has truly been so good to me. And, more importantly, I’ve learned some really good lessons about God and my relationship with Him.
I recently found myself in a sinful relationship. I don’t want to focus on the sex part. Everyone knows premarital sex is sinful. The most important thing that happened is in my understanding of God’s love which has ultimately elevated my relationship with him. Obviously, I knew what I was doing in this relationship and that I shouldn’t have been doing it. Sadly, it’s not the first time this has happened, but this time I didn’t have the same level of guilt I did the first time. That has nothing to do with the guy or the act. It’s about God. I know it seems as if I’m being callous about the entire incident, but I’m not. I understand the brevity of what I did and I’m disappointed in myself for allowing it to happen again. I accept full responsibility for my actions and cannot and will not place blame. The tone here is one of excitement because through this act of sin, I’ve come into a deeper understanding of who God is. God is not a vengeful God, at least not against His children. He’s not one who holds grudges. He is not one who punishes us for bad behavior or bad thoughts, or even sin. Those are things the enemy wants us to believe in order to deepen the crack in our relationship with God. No, God is a God of love and acceptance. If He is able to forgive our sins when we first come into relationship with Him, why wouldn’t He be willing to do the same when we sin against Him later?
The first time this happened, a year ago, I beat myself up so much and felt so much guilt that I stopped praying, stopped reading the bible, and even stopped going to church. I was no longer committing the sin, but I also wasn’t feeding my relationship with God. In fact, because of that, I was so easily enticed back into doing the same thing a little over a year later. Ultimately, this is exactly what the enemy wanted. He wanted me to turn my back on God. If he couldn’t get me to continue to sin against God, then maybe he could find success in me starving my relationship with God. This time, God showed me that just because I had sinned doesn’t mean I should put myself through a self-imposed period of darkness. Think about it. If I had cursed or lied or gotten drunk, would my reaction have been the same? Those are all sins, too. IF I truly believe all sin is equal, and the bible says it is, then why did I allow this particular sin to break me, to further separate me from God?
The key here is “I.” In my guilt and shame, I hid myself from the One who could restore me. I felt that I needed to be punished for my actions. So, subconsciously knowing that He wouldn’t, I began to punish myself. I allowed myself to go into a brief depression. I felt a tremendous amount of shame. I cried a lot. I said things like, “I will never do this again as long as I live.” I listened to more gospel music and more gospel sermons, which are good, but not as a sole means of reaching God. This is akin to self-diagnosing and self-medicating. I still wasn’t praying like I should. Oh, I would do the cursory “Thank you Lord for waking me up” prayer and “Thank you for the day” prayer when I went to bed, but I wasn’t having real conversations and meditation time with God. On top of that, God kept blessing me. Really, God?? How can you bless me when I’ve done this terrible thing? I was still in school and doing very well. I knew this was a part of His purpose for me, so I began to focus on that and graduated with a MS in Education with a 4.0 grade point average. Really, Lord? This is what you do for me after all I’ve done? Little did I realize that pursuing my purpose in this manner was a part of my worship for Him. I punished myself spiritually even though the bible says there is now therefore no condemnation. If God was not going to turn His back on me, then I would just turn my back on Him until I got myself together. Here’s the thing, I never got myself together in the first place! That was all Him, so what made me think I could do it without Him? As pastor Joyce Moore would say, that’s “stinkin thinkin.”
God led me to a Christian fiction book called The Yada Yada Prayer Group by Neta Jackson. I downloaded the book from the library onto my iPod and began listening to it in my car. At first, I thought it was boring and almost deleted it, but something told me to continue listening, to give the book a chance, so I did. I kept listening and soon realized that there’s purpose in this book for me. I realized that the message in this book is for me. The heroine was going through a challenging spiritual awakening that led her to understand more about the grace of God. In the book, she came to the understanding that just because her life was spent surrounded by those who love the Lord and just because she loves the Lord and is in a loving family who also love the Lord, doesn’t mean she fully understood His grace towards her. In the book, there were a series of events that led her to that understanding. At the same time, I came to the same understanding about myself. I came to realize that I didn’t have to be a certain person or behave in a certain way in order to benefit from God’s grace. I learned that no matter what I do or say, God will still love me and extend His grace towards me and that because I am His child, I should be willing to accept it. Even though I didn’t deserve it, and still don’t deserve it, there’s nothing I can do to not receive it. I didn’t deserve it before and I don’t deserve it now. There’s nothing I can say or do to affect that. So why put myself through changes when all I have to do is lift my face and say thank you Lord and freely receive everything He has to give. Does this mean I should continue to walk in sin? Of course not. In fact, it’s because of His unending and everlasting grace that I want to become a better me and walk in a deeper relationship with Him..
At the beginning of this year, the Holy Spirit deposited something into my spirit that I saved as a note on my phone. I didn’t understand why until now. He said, “We are rewarded for being His children, just because and not for anything particular we’ve done. This is a hard concept for us because we are used to having to work for what we want and then are satisfied when we have earned it. We can’t earn anything from God. We have because of His grace and mercy and we are completely at His will.” I revisited this message this week when it became even more relevant to my current circumstances. No matter what we’ve been through before and during our walk with God, we can never do anything that will make us eligible to receive His grace. This includes non-sinful behavior or repenting from sinful behavior.
Lord, thank you for your grace and your love. We come before you broken and clothed in ashes and because of your love for us, your sons and daughters, we are now made whole and are beautiful. And thank you that no matter how many times we stray or walk away, we can always turn around and find you standing right where we left you. You are forever faithful and we love you for it. Instill in us the desire to keep moving forward with you, to be spiritually-minded, to not be distracted by or taken in by the temptations of this world and the things around us. And when we do fall, help us to remember that all we have to do it look up and you will be there with your arms outstretched. In Jesus’ name, amen.