Sunday, March 19, 2017
Photo taken by my daughter, age 12
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them."
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
2 Corinthians 5:17
My faith walk has been been filled with joys and trials, and I have often faltered along the way. During my teens, when I had recently discovered Christ, I knew I needed Him, but I didn’t understand Him. I remember that I struggled to walk away from doing things that were blatant sin, and instead, negotiated my repentance with Him. I remember rationalizing my sin in my prayers, explaining to Him why I couldn’t stop committing one sin or another. Later, as a young adult, I think I began to believe I was walking with Him, because I wasn’t doing anything that some other Christians weren’t doing, so I figured I was being faithful. But, then one day, I remember falling on my face as I realized just what was wrong with my belief system.
I was reading my bible, and I remember reading something that changed me forever. I can’t even remember the verse, but I remember what I learned that day.
The old has passed away…
Before I share, what I learned, I want to share why I needed to be changed. My heart had a painful history, but still a loving Father beckoned to me in so many ways!
An amazing grandfather took me to church when I was eleven, but died in my arms, in my kitchen floor, when I was thirteen. Faithful believers continued pouring their energy into a messy, rebellious teen, for four more years, after I gave my life to Christ, at youth camp in July 1987. However, I was me-centered, and didn’t even realize that I refused to accept the things they tried to teach me.
By 2000, I had gone through a painful divorce, and my sweet friends, at a new church, helped me through this difficult time. Subsequently, I became involved with another man and then went through an earth-shaking unplanned pregnancy. My friends at church were there for me again. However, my life felt broken, and now, I’d been abandoned by this man who had used a lie to manipulate me. I had walked headlong into many situations trying to ease my pain but seeking comfort in the world, rather than the promises of a loving Father. I felt unworthy to be around Christians any longer, but desperately needed to cling to whatever shred of faith I still had, or I feared that my children would have no hope, as they were being raised by someone who loved them, but had no idea how to be the mother they needed. I remarried, my sweet husband, and then struggled to find a church because I felt so burdened by my past mistakes. Sadly, somewhere along the way, I was told that the Bible contained errors, and therefore, was encouraged to overlook some verses, that simply don’t apply to Christians, today.
The new has come…
But then, during my pregnancy with my little girl, I was reading the Bible, and realized that something was terribly wrong. This is the day that my walk was forever changed.
I realized that if some verses were erroneous, how could I trust John 14:6?
“I am the way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father, except through me?”
I remember scanning through the Bible, reading verse after verse, and being confronted with my own broken heart. Every person who had ever known me, knew a liar. I professed to love Him and said they should, too, but I wasn’t trusting Him myself.
I realized that I needed to trust every verse in His precious book, or trust none of them. There is simply nothing in between.
After that day, I began walking quite differently. I began loving people more and I let go of many bitter grudges that were rotting me from the inside out. I realized that I could not expect from anyone what I am not willing to do first.
In Christ, we are a new creation…
I still struggle daily with this feeling of inequality with other believers. I have spent so many tears weeping over my mistakes. I grieve over my poor faith walk, which has likely led many away from a mercy-filled, grace bestowing, Father, who wants me to point people TO Him. Despite feeling forgiven by Him, I have not been able to forgive myself for having been such a pitiful light for people who needed to see Him.
Recently, however, I read Isaiah 38:17, and my hungry heart stopped. I read the words, and reread them.
“Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.”
What I read in this verse spoke to me, and has spoken to me daily since. I already realized that He does allow us all to suffer, and I’ve never expected not to struggle. I knew that through our suffering, we sometimes glean valuable lessons. However, the final phrase literally leaped from the page. “…you have put all my sins behind your back.”
I read it over and over. He who is the Alpha and Omega, with no beginning and no end. He who spoke the world, and everything in it, into existence. He who sent His own, precious, Son, for me, did not cast my sin behind MY back.
No. For there, it would have lurked behind me and kept me prisoner.
He cast it behind HIS back. And if He is who I know Him to be, then why do I keep re-trying myself for every crime I’ve ever committed?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not the person I hope to one day be. I never will be; not until He returns and perfects us all. But, this verse is extremely refreshing to a thirsty heart. He doesn’t want me to continue holding my past crimes behind me. He wants to forgive me and move forward, a justified sinner, saved by Grace, and obedient to His whispers in my heart.
I cannot tell you how freeing this was for me to read. My heart breaks when I see people hurting one another, and I keep feeling a burden to share what this verse means to me, in case maybe they are acting to protect their own inner-brokenness, too. Yet, I have not shared it, out of fear.
Fear of condemnation by those who have not erred as much as I have. Fear of mistakes that are yet to come.
Our Father doesn’t want us to live in fear. He doesn’t want us to remain a prisoner of the evil one. I am so thankful for this, and I hope my long story might resonate with someone else. Thank you for taking the time to read.
By grace alone, Ashley
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
1 John 14:18