My Story of Faith (Part 2)
Despite my changed heart, things were still tough at home throughout my teenage years. I felt consoled in my heart about salvation and had hope for eternal life, but this did not impact behavior towards my parents. However, I started independently praying, reading my Bible, and paying more attention to preaching and Sunday school lessons at church.
One day a minister at our church preached a sermon and briefly talked about the unpardonable sin. (See Matthew 12:22-32.) I felt almost sick, recalling how I had cursed God in the closet. I despaired and became convinced that I had ruined everything and was condemned to spend eternity in hell. Still grieving my uncle’s death, I feared I would never see him again either.
I started looking up information about the unpardonable sin. This was long before google. I searched church library books, a commentary in the library, and church documents in the back of the hymnal. Unable to find any clear answers, I became convinced that my salvation had been lost forever.
Months went by in this guilt-ridden frame of mind. Finally, one day I nervously asked the minister if I could speak with him. I needed to know once and for all if I was condemned forever. I don’t remember too much about our conversation, except for one thing he said:
“The very fact that you are so concerned demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is working in your life. If you had truly committed the unpardonable sin, you wouldn’t even care.”
This conversation was such a relief. My mind stopped spinning with guilt, and I was finally able to put it behind me.*
From that point, I was fully committed as a Christian. At age 16, I wanted to become a member of our church and participate in communion. But instead of following Christ, I became all about following the rules.
Almost immediately, I focused on my own deeds and actions, instead of Christ the Savior. I was keen on emphasizing what I (and others) were supposed to do or not do, but didn’t consider what Christ did on my behalf. Author Elyse Fitzpatrick calls this “spiritual amnesia”.
Meanwhile at home, I was still doing battle with my parents. Somehow, the commandment about honoring your father and mother was one I chose to ignore. I was blind to my own faults and often focused on the faults of others.
Ironically, I was known to be a trustworthy and responsible babysitter. I was a decent student. I participated in church groups and committees at a young age. Most people didn’t know how rude I was to my parents at home. I also developed an addiction to candy and sneaking food.
Please don’t misunderstand. All the high school years were not completely awful and miserable. I had a core group of good friends. My mom tried to help me the best she could. I have good memories, too. But my temper and the strife I caused in the family casts a dark shadow over those years.
Recalling these things is embarrassing. Yet, there is a reason for doing so.
If God can forgive a sinful, cursing, and often angry young girl, he can forgive anyone. Sure, maybe I was a “good girl”. I didn’t drink, smoke, do drugs, or have sex. Instead , I tried to show myself as someone who did everything right and legalistically followed all the rules, while wreaking havoc at home.
Jesus had some pretty harsh words for hypocrites.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:27, 28 NIV)
I know I was a hypocrite then, and I’m certain there are some ways in which I am still a hypocrite.
Yet, God has redeemed me. I’ve confessed those sins of the past and asked for forgiveness. (I will explain more how that came about in the next post.) I’ve trusted in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf. My past sins are covered by the blood of my Savior, which he shed on the cross. This is humbling. There is nothing I personally can do to save myself. What a comfort. It’s not all on me.
Being a “good girl” was a facade, nothing more. It didn’t gain me good standing with God. Only Jesus, God’s Son, could do that.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. (Ephesians 1:7 NIV)
Today I can say “I am forgiven. I am loved by God.” This is only possible through Jesus Christ, only by the mercy of my heavenly Father. Knowing full well my weaknesses and innumerable failures, then and now, I am humbled to know how much I am also loved and forgiven and accepted through the gift of the Cross.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NASB)
*For a very helpful article about the unpardonable sin, click here.
In this post I’ve talked about God as the Father, Jesus Christ (the Son) and the Holy Spirit. This is the Trinity. For a simple explanation, I suggest this link.
For part one of my faith story, click here.
Stay tuned for part 3…