Thursday, June 23, 2016

My Faith Story

I was raised in a Christian family and vividly remember asking Jesus into my heart at age four. With a childlike faith, I understood that I needed Jesus in my life, and was baptized a few months before my fifth birthday. Growing up, I always knew Jesus loved me and that I was made to worship, serve, and love...but as I became an adult, things weren't as easy as I'd always understood them to be.

I married while still in college, and soon began teaching fulltime. The long hours I kept grading papers, planning lessons, figuring out classroom management, reading endless books, and generally just trying to survive, left me exhausted and nearing depression. In an attempt to maintain a happy demeanor, I ended up spending more time with one of my girl friends than my husband. I was extremely na├»ve and lacked wisdom (although at the time I never would have recognized that about myself) -- I didn't realize I was dealing with depression; I just knew I felt "happier" when we stayed out half the night, laughing and dancing at the bar.

That entire time, I was running from my problems, running from God's grace. It led me down the path of an emotional affair and eventual divorce. I resigned my teaching position. I packed up and moved to England to pursue a very wrong relationship -- under the guise of following my dreams of teaching in another country. A lie to try and hide my blatant sin. My depression deepened because I felt like such a failure to God and my family.

The entire time I was in England, God kept pursuing my heart. I began to read scripture and online devotionals because within my heart of hearts, I knew the only way out of the pit of pain and depression was through Jesus.

Early one morning on the train from Cambridge to London, I broke down and called my parents. Through that difficult phone call, I began to admit the extent of my sin; they responded with God's love and grace. I knew I deserved their anger and disappointment, but they chose to offer the healing balm of holy love. Over the next couple of weeks, I filled in the gaps and details of my hidden story via email...and again they extended grace, filling the dark places of my heart with hope.

I remember sitting in Westminster Abbey during an Easter service, tears streaming down my face. In the midst of a beautiful liturgy, I knew that God never gave up on me. No matter how far I ran or how badly I messed up, he wasn't finished with me. Not long after that, I came back home to face the consequences of my decisions. Through it all, God placed people of faith and encouragement in my path to speak truth into my life. He kept tangibly reminding me he loved me, and that I was worthy of his love. I was never beyond his reach. After a lifetime of knowing about God's grace in an academic sort of way, I finally fully experienced it -- not just in my head, but in my heart. Along the way, I met and married a godly man who helped me further understand God's unconditional love, and we've been blessed with two sons.

Eight years after my greatest failure, God spoke to my heart at the end of a church service. He reminded me of how far he had taken me. I lived the life of a prodigal, and he ran to me while I was still far away. When I couldn't do anything but hang my head in shame, he gently lifted my chin to dry my tears and kiss my cheek. At that moment, I felt called to be baptized again, this time as a testament to his relentless grace, and my life of hope in him.

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