Ever lose your way through life? Ever get so far away from what you believed in that you felt like a perpetual phony?
During one period in my life, I made a poor choice, one that took me totally out of fellowship with the Lord. Not only that, it caused my conscience to become seared, so that I could no longer think or reason with any degree of wisdom or soundness of mind. Panic set in, as each day became increasingly difficult and strange to me. Who was I? How did I get here? What was I thinking? But the pleasure of my sin buffered me from the reality of its consequences, leading me further and further away from truth and into a lifestyle of self deception. Then one day my world came crashing down, and I found myself used up and abandoned. The pain was such that I didn’t think I’d survive it. Each day I felt more certain that I wouldn’t make it to the next. By this time I was so far away from God, so accustomed to listening to Satan and my flesh that I couldn’t discern the Lord’s voice. I was in a foreign land, filled with doubt and despair. I had many questions about God, myself and life. Had God given up on me? Had I passed the point of no return in my romance with sin? I felt like a drifter out at sea, longing for the warmth, comfort and familiarity of home, desiring to embrace loved ones again. Would I ever find my way back home?
The Road to Perversion
I was approaching my mid-40’s and had been divorced for several years. Up until that point, I had been fairly content without a partner in my life. Then I met a man whose sparkling eyes and warm smile captivated me. He was intelligent, funny, and seemed very caring. In that instant I knew I had to have this man in my life. From that point on, I pushed aside everything I had learned from my wonderful pastor about developing relationships with the opposite sex God’s way. I set my foot on a path the enemy had specially crafted for my destruction. It was a forbidden path, one wrought with traps designed with my particular weaknesses in mind. It was the road to perversion, taking me away from the truth of God’s word and His will for my life and deeper into the distorted, deceptive world of the evil one.
For the next six weeks, I pretended we could see each other alone, at his place, without even a hint of sexual temptation. We discussed the Lord, shared scriptures. During one early conversation, we even talked about our mutual commitment to sexual purity. Who was I fooling? Every time we were together, I found my soul bonding more deeply with this man of my dreams. I was wanting more – physically and emotionally. Yet I kept telling myself we would never fall into sin. Purity ranked number one on my list of non-negotiables. Somewhere along the line, it slipped to number 50.
I couldn’t believe it happened. Even though I felt some degree of guilt, it was replaced by the joy of my own selfish desires having been met. The next time was easier, and before I knew it, our sinful behavior had become a way of life for us. Everything suffered – my relationship with the Lord, church members, family and friends, my job and ministry. I had become unavailable to everyone. At the time, I wasn’t mindful of how my selfish indulgences were affecting and even hurting those around me. I was enjoying this relationship and planned to continue in it at all costs – the problem was I didn’t know just how much it would cost me.
I thought we were in love, so whatever the consequences, I believed it would be worth it, since I just knew this man was going to ask me to marry him one day. However, one evening, while we were cuddling, he said “you know, some day you’re going to make some man very happy.” My heart instantly stopped beating. I wanted to jump up and shout – “What do you mean -- some man?” But I kept my cool. I had heard that men won’t buy the cow when they can get the milk for free, but surely that didn’t apply to our situation. How could it? That statement called for a good, long talk. During our conversation he told me that he only wanted to be friends. He insisted he’d been saying that all along. I had to admit I had heard those words depart from his lips, but I wasn’t convinced he’d meant them. After all, we had some pretty intense emotional encounters.
Ashes, Not Beauty
Ever been so close to someone that you thought the same thoughts, felt their joy and pain as if it were your own, and experienced their presence even when they weren’t around?
This is what I had with this man who just let me know there was no future for us. That’s also how my relationship with God had once been (only He is always around, even when I don’t “feel” Him). So what drove me to abandon my sweet love relationship with God? What was more important than the joy, peace, comfort and wisdom I derived from my intimacy with Him? How often I wished I could turn back the hands of time and make a different choice. And now it had finally hit me that this man didn’t love me at all. I had exchanged the greatest love in the world for something that was totally fake. I had settled for being used up, when I could have been being used by God, experiencing the total fulfillment of walking in obedience to the true lover of my soul. In Isaiah 61:3, the Lord promises to give those who love Him a crown of beauty instead of ashes (customary in mourning), but in my disobedience I was wearing ashes instead.
The Long Road Home
Ever swim out into the ocean, floating along, and then turn back and panic at how far you’ve wandered from shore?
This is how this experience was. At times I struggled to make it back, but would grow weary because no matter how hard I tried, it seemed I had made no progress. I was tossing about in waves of despair, fear and anguish. The shore seemed forever beyond my reach.
Around Christmas that year, I put a stop to our sinful relationship. Letting him go was so hard to do, but I knew this pleased God, even though my heart ached so. After many tears and many months of agony, wavering between hope and despair, I began to see a glimmer of light that I would make it without him. I grew tired of the pain of the lost relationship overshadowing my feelings for the Lord and so one day I lay prostrate before God and cried to Him to restore me, to forgive me, to make me whole. Soon thereafter, I began making small strides back to the safe shore. As my mind returned to my relationship with God, it took a long time for me to believe He still wanted to use me and achieving intimacy again with Christ seemed beyond my reach.
During this time, the enemy kept telling me God was through with me, that I had let Him down and that my sin was so egregious that there was no turning back for me. I knew God’s word said nothing could separate me from His love, but I sure felt separated and even abandoned, in a sense. But then, hadn’t I abandoned God each time I engaged in my sin? Wasn’t each act a rejection of all He stood for – His righteous, Holy ways? Yes, on both accounts. However, God never had abandoned me. He hadn’t given up on me. I was simply experiencing the consequences of my sin, a desert experience designed to bring me to true repentance and a total reliance on God and His ways. It worked. It took a long time, but stroke by stroke, as I remained in His word and prayer, as I turned to Him, instead of retreating into depression during the waves of pain, I found myself getting closer and closer to shore. At times rough waters, distractions and people got in the way, but eventually I found my way back home.
No Place Like Home
As I rested on the warm, wet sand of God’s comforting shore, back home where I belonged, I felt a bit awkward at first and wondered if my relationship with God would ever feel like it used to. The funny thing is, it never has and never will. You see, I am in a new place with God, a deeper level of trust and obedience. What has changed is my understanding of who He is, what He requires and how deep His love is. As I look back on the experience, I realize He was loving me all the time. He protected me from so many dangers, and provided for my needs in spite of me. He has a plan for my life, and although my disobedience seemingly threw it off track, God knew I would take that path in life. His loving discipline was set in place for my good.
It felt so good to be back home in His presence. In His amazing love He provided assurance I so desperately needed. I’ll never forget one day when I was getting ready for work and the scripture about the Prodigal Son came to mind. I hadn’t read that particular passage in a while and didn’t have time to look it up. I began meditating on it as I drove to work, and found myself wondering if my Heavenly Father was celebrating because I had returned home. Some doubts crept in, as the enemy of my soul would have it. “Lord, are you rejoicing like that for me?” was my unuttered question. Later that day, a coworker told me to look up a passage in Luke that had blessed his heart that morning. When I did, I couldn’t believe it. The verses he had recommended to me were from the story of the Prodigal Son, where it specifically talks about the father rejoicing because his son had returned home. Tears flowed from my eyes and I could almost feel a gentle hug from God. He had answered my unspoken question, one I had felt bad about asking because of His goodness to me. And the answer was yes, indeed, He was rejoicing because I had finally found my way back home!
Sharon, you will never know how much your testimony has ministered to me. Actually, you will... one day, when the Father rewards you in heaven. May the God of Wonders bless you tremendously for your transparency! Love, Treava
What an amazing creation. Your words told a common story but in an amazing way. Falling down is hard to et up from; we are so blessed to have the King of Kings to lift us up, bruised body and spirit.
I still have to go look up the word "egregious".
I can't believe I was the first to review this incredible life-story.
God Bless you for your sincere honesty.
Please visit my website www.therunninggirl.com and PLEEEEEEEEASE read the short story Personal Ad...no one will ever appreciate this story the way you will - I hope.
Your brother in Christ,