Honestly this one is tough to write and tough to confess but…. here goes.
There are so many inspirational stories out there about people who underwent great personal challenge through the power of God. Stories of people facing down poverty, slavery, rising up against deplorable situations or governments. Stories about people flowing with God’s power and doing His work to break down oppression for the greater good. My story isn’t one of those.
My story starts with shame. All of my oppression came from the inside, mine is a story of continuing to choose to sin and to continue destroy relationships and cause emotional wreckage in my wake.
For comfort I looked in the bottom of a bottle or in the arms of a woman. I always blamed what I did on things in my past or the actions of others around me, but never myself. That way I could shove the crippling guilt and shame down into a dark part of me. That part got darker and deeper until my first glimmer of hope. My daughter was soon to be born, I made a huge mistake that opened my eyes about drinking and I prayed to God, begged that I could beat back alcoholism and be the dad my daughter would need. I never drank again.
But then when the credits were rolling and the happy music was playing on my inspirational film about God’s power defeating a character flaw the movie changed to a horror picture, and out jumped the resurrected bad guy in the form of huge insecurity that would manifest as needing a metric crap load of attention from anyone who would give it in any way.
I would do dark things to get cheap approval and attention that would build my shame and make me have to do more to make myself feel better and so on. I became two people; the hero who could fix anything and was a shining example of human pride, and the heal who would hide in the shadows of my grimy self.
I became a master of lies, I could convince anyone that I wasn’t doing these things or I was just a misunderstanding, or any number of things to make my accuser think it was somehow her fault. It became easy because I had so much practice lying to myself.
Then someone courageous brought me to church, I was afraid to go and resisted and it wasn’t until my actions caught up to me in a serious way that I decided I’d better do something. I started going to church, I ramped up my self-discipline and stopped seeking cheap and easy approval and getting attention for the wrong type of actions. But I made a few mistakes; I still tried to hide what I had done (I figured, “Hey, I’m done, it’s behind me, no point in letting everyone know what a creep I was,”) I didn’t ask God for strength, and I still didn’t believe that I deserved God’s grace and forgiveness for what I had done.
God even tried to tell me to fess up, own up, and basically man up and accept the consequences. One of the first series of sermons was about running from God, we learned about Jonah and the whale. I shook my head in agreement and shouted my, “Amen!” …over my shoulder while running as fast from God as my spiritual legs would carry me. I knew my Whale was lies, deceit, and even trying to hold on to the little bits of my old habits. Then I was swallowed by the whale.
Of course right as everything seemed perfect in my life, I was on a springboard to get everything I thought I ever wanted, and it was all pulled out from under me. All because of me. That whale swallowed me whole and suddenly my outside was as dark as my inside. I wanted to die…. and so I did.
On my knees, in front of others, through sobs that were equally pain, sadness, and finally relief I let my old self die and was born again through Christ. I accepted that Jesus died for my sins and that I deserved redemption and grace. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
When I accepted that infinite grace though something did change in me, I realized that I have a Father who is always watching over me, and loves me in all things. A light shined on that dark part of me and he rubbed his bleary eyes and realized that he too, is loved. I offered my shame and guilt and pledged not to misuse His gifts, the gifts that I used to glorify myself I would somehow use to glorify God. I still don’t know how I will, but I pray to follow His will and I trust that it will happen.
So, not inspirational, sad, shameful, sorrowful. I’ve hurt so many and it is tough to accept forgiveness for those I hurt, but I am trusting God to take care of those people as I trust him to take care of me. But why would I share this story? Why embarrass myself like this? Simply this, maybe there is someone out there who wants to hold God’s hand, wants to stop running from God but is afraid he or she isn’t worthy. I’m here to tell you that you are, we all are. Jesus died for us sinners, not the saints. There is none so low that God won’t stoop to lift them up.
I pray a simple prayer that I learned while listening to an amazing mother teach her daughter how to pray, “Thank God for something, ask God for something, and ask God to help someone.” Beautiful.
I thank God for His grace and for this chance to rebuild, ask Him for strength in trusting him, and I ask him to help those I’ve hurt to find joy and feel his love.
As I fight my habits of mind that lived through my rebirth and walk away from sin and towards God these words help.
Romans 16:20 “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”