Good morning, Church! I wanted to share my faith story today because God has done a deep heart change in me that I never could have done on my own.
I was raised in a pastor and missionary family, so I’ve heard about Jesus my whole life. As a little kid, I was always afraid of hell. I feared punishment. I just knew I could never go to heaven, because as hard as I tried to be good, I was never good enough. Even though I heard people say that we could not earn our way to heaven by being good, I didn’t understand. I heard people preach that, and then I heard rules and hard sayings of Jesus – so I was very confused. People said we could not earn our way to heaven, but still, people cared a lot about being perfect. And, I wasn’t perfect.
I remember feeling paralyzed by guilt when I told a lie or stole something when I was small. I tried to hide the fact that I did wrong. I wanted to at least look like I was good. I would cover my lies in lies to try to look good. And even if I got away with it, I felt miserable.
I used to have nightmares about dying and going to hell. I was really scared. From the time I was 3 or 4 years old, I repeatedly prayed to ask Jesus into my heart because I was afraid that if I sinned after praying that, He’d leave me again. Because I wasn’t perfect. And, if I happened to die after sinning and before praying, then I’d be stuck in hell for sure!
One day, when I was 9 years old, I said something very hurtful to my mom. She became angry and sent me to my room while she calmed down. I knew she would come discipline me after I had some time to think about what I’d done. As I sat alone in my bedroom, I was beating myself up inside. “No matter how hard you try to be good, you always do stupid things. You hurt your mom! You’ll never be good enough.” Then, suddenly, it was like God started speaking into my thoughts. “Right. You cannot be good enough, but that’s why I sent Jesus. Jesus was perfect, and He was punished for you. You can never be good enough on your own, but Jesus will be good enough for you.”
That was amazing! Jesus could be good enough for me? That was the night I understood how Jesus was good news!
As a child, I was also victim of several instances of sexual abuse. The abuse caused me to be angry – rightly so – and afraid. As I grew, anger progressed to full blown hatred of my abusers, and bitterness and mistrust grew in me toward men in general.
Then, to my horror, when I grew from childhood into a young woman, I realized that I was attracted to women. Not men. I’d been reading the Bible for myself since I was 12 years old, so I knew what it had to say about homosexuality. I loved Jesus so much, but I was feeling things that were off limits – and I couldn’t make myself stop feeling those things. I hated myself for those feelings, and it caused me to feel depressed and even suicidal. I was ashamed to feel those attractions, so ashamed that I didn’t even mention them to God in prayer. And I prayed a lot.
I was hiding in shame, just like I did as a little girl when I lied. Just like Adam and Eve hid from God when He came to walk with them in the garden.
One day, when I was worshiping God, I dared to broach the topic of my homosexual feelings. “God,” I asked timidly, “Would you please take this away?” His response was instant in my mind, “Forgive the men who abused you.”
I was so angry. How dare He ask me to forgive them? Didn’t He know what they had done to me? I argued with Him for a long time, but eventually, I remembered the promise that Jesus could be good enough FOR me. So, I told Jesus, “Ok. Fine. You want me to forgive them? Then YOU have to do it FOR me, because I don’t even want to forgive them.”
And, I kept praying prayers like that every time I felt anger or resentment towards those men. It took a year and a half, but He answered my prayer. Why did I continue the process and not stop asking Him to help me forgive? Because He told me He wanted me to forgive. And if He told me to do something, it meant that it was good for me to do – and He would help me do it! In the end, He did the hard work of forgiveness FOR me. Now, I can bless those men- sincerely, from my heart. I don’t feel hatred toward them anymore, just God’s love – and I pray that those men will know His love and forgiveness too. Jesus changed my heart for me.
And, amazingly enough, as He was helping me forgive, He was also winning another battle deep inside me. The homosexual fantasies I had been experiencing were losing their power over me. He continued leading me on a journey that lasted about 5 more years, but even those attractions that I knew I couldn’t change – He changed. Jesus did that for me.
The world tells us that there are feelings, situations, and attitudes in our hearts that cannot be changed. So, if Jesus talks harshly about one of those things in my life, that must mean that I’m a lost cause. A hopeless case. I’m doomed to hell. God must hate me! But, THAT’S A LIE. God LOVES you. If we hope in change, we’re hoping in the wrong thing. But, when we put all our hope in Jesus, we understand that Jesus is good enough FOR us, and if God ever asks any change of us, no matter how impossible it seems in our eyes, He will do it FOR us if we’ll let Him.