What happens if we sin and we just can’t fix it? Will God still allow us in His presence? Does our identity in Christ change with our actions?
Good questions, right? Hopefully, we can find some answers together.
If you’ve read the About Us page, you know that I was pregnant when I married at twenty-two. Back then, the options were pretty much a secret adoption or a “have to” marriage, and I was in a “have to” marriage with a man who didn’t choose me.
My self-image as an on-fire-for-God Christian had gone up in a puff of black smoke. In just a bit, I’m going to be sharing some very personal things about my struggle to re-realize (is that a word?) my identity in Christ.
So, why are my daughter and I writing this blog?
After all, it’s a lot of work, and we’re ripping the cover off our private lives.
We’re hoping to help Christian women (and maybe a few brave men), acquire some tools and strategies to use against the devil when he accuses them.
I’m going to share an experience that changed my understanding of my position in Christ, and then Rebecca’s going to follow with one of her own stories.
I was a young Christian woman who had known the presence of God intimately. But I’d lost that consciousness after getting pregnant.
My heart was a desert. I couldn’t feel my Father’s presence and, to me, that was the most frightening thing possible. I had repented over and over again, but accepting God’s forgiveness was difficult for me because my husband had been married previously. So, not only had I had sex before marriage, but I had married a divorced man.
“So what?” you might say.
Divorce is not considered the big deal today that it was back then. In that era, many people didn’t think divorced persons should even be allowed in church—unless they were at the altar repenting.
“How terrible those people were,” I hear some of you saying. And it’s true, many Christians were merciless toward people in my circumstances. They whipped out that “sinner” label and affixed it like a scarlet letter.
But whether we want to face it or not, the Bible does speak clearly against divorce—and because I believed the Bible to be the Word of God, I was tormented as I scoured through the scriptures looking for some loophole that would say it was all right for me to be married to a divorced man.
I couldn’t find one. There appears to be an allowance for divorce in the scriptures, but it didn’t pertain to my circumstances.
If that’s your situation, please don’t stop reading. There’s something important coming. Something that will bring you hope and not condemnation.
So, I was in—what seemed to me—an impossible situation. I loved God and wanted to please Him. I revered the Word of God and feared to disobey it. I felt that if I stayed married, I would be “continuing” in sin. I thought my only option was to take my daughter and leave my husband.
But where would I go?
I couldn’t go to my parents. I had no skills to support myself. Welfare wasn’t what it is today. And what about my husband? He had married me out of obligation, but he didn’t want a divorce. He loved his daughter. And his former wife had been happily remarried for years. Reconciliation was impossible.
One day, Rebecca was in the playpen. I don’t remember how old she was, probably under a year. I was ironing. Almost everything had to be ironed back then. It was a tedious process which involved heavy irons and starch. Glad those days are over!
I wasn’t praying at the moment. I was concentrating on not scorching my husband’s white shirts. To tell you the truth, I was afraid to pray. I didn’t think God would want to hear from me.
All of a sudden, the Holy Spirit poured over me like warm oil. I felt the presence of God. I set my iron aside and wept with gratitude.
Unless you’ve had a similar experience, you can’t imagine how I felt. I thought I had been forever separated from the Savior I loved. But I knew His presence. I had experienced it countless times. And I knew His Spirit had visited me in that little house. I knew that He had not abandoned me, even though I was in violation of His Word.
In Psalm 51:11 we hear King David’s heart after he had sinned with Bathsheba, “Cast me not away from your presence . . .”
If you’ve known the presence of God, to be without it is devastating. That’s why Jesus cried, “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me,” Matthew 27:46 while He was hanging on the cross. He suffered the loss of His Father’s presence, so we wouldn’t have to.
As I was writing this article, I was listening to a CD by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir for the first time. The words of the song playing caught my ear and I stopped writing to listen.
“I’ve been changed, healed, freed, delivered. I’ve found joy, peace, grace and favor.
I won’t go back. Can’t go back to the way it used to be—before your presence came and changed me.”
God’s presence changes us.
No wonder the devil tries so hard to keep us from it. He wants us to walk in condemnation, so we’ll run away from God. He does everything he can to keep us conscious of our sin, instead of God’s grace.
The truth is, some things just can’t be fixed. Sometimes we can’t go back and undo what we’ve done.
But that’s no reason to run from the presence of God. On the contrary, that’s when we should run toward Him. We couldn’t outrun God’s presence if we tried. Where would we go? Psalm 139:7-10
I have to admit that up until my husband’s first wife died, many years later, I continued to struggle with guilt over my situation.
I believe King David had the same struggle through most of his life. Every time he looked at his beautiful wife, he saw his sin. When his sons rebelled, he saw his sin.
But he knew where to go. And he knew he would be welcome there.
He kept running to the presence of God, and in doing so, he was able to thwart Satan’s efforts to destroy him and his legacy.
There’s no situation we may find ourselves in that will separate us from God’s love. Romans 8:29-31 We’re His and He loves us. Our “identity” is in Christ and His righteousness. Don’t be afraid to run to Him.
Christ shed His blood for our sins before we even committed them. When God looks at a blood-washed soul, He doesn’t see his or her sin. He only sees the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross to redeem that person.
Romans 8:33-34 says, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect when it is God Who justifies . . . puts us in right relation to Himself? Who shall come forward and accuse or impeach those whom God has chosen? Will God, Who acquits us? Who is there to condemn us? Will Christ Jesus … who is at the right hand of God actually pleading as He intercedes for us?” (Amplified, emphasis mine)
Think of it! Who has the authority to charge or accuse us when God has already acquitted us? Who can condemn us? Will Jesus? No! He’s interceding for us! He’s pleading our case! Not even you, yourself, have that authority. And the devil, for sure, doesn’t have it.
It’s God Who puts us in right relationship with Himself. We may have to live with the natural consequences of our sin. King David did. I did. But we will never live without the love of God.
Here’s Rebecca with a short word about how her relationship with her father hindered her fellowship with God.
I used to be a runner. Not the kind of runner you’re thinking about. The closest I ever came to being that kind of runner was when I ran, well, mostly walked, a mini-marathon around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and decided I would rather get hit by one of the race cars than do that again. Ha-ha!
I was just a young girl the first time I ran away from home. Got as far as my friend Jill’s house a couple blocks away. Well, hey, all that running was exhausting; I needed lunch and a nap.
As I got older, I continued to run away from home when things got tough. I ran a little farther each time. A little farther from the rules. A little farther from facing the rebellion and bitterness in my heart towards my dad and all authority—including God.
Hmmmm (scratches head), now that I think about it, that might be why I hate jogging so much.
I believe I thought of God the same way I thought of my earthly father at the time.
I was under the very wrong impression that God’s presence would be a stuffy, uncomfortable place of judgment for even the slightest wrongdoing. And no one had ever better question authority there!
So I continued to run. From both fathers.
My dad was a good man. I’m not here to bash him. I love him and miss him and his hilarious, wheezing laugh and pot belly so much. But the reality is, in order for you to understand how and why I stopped running from God, you’ll need to know why I was running in the first place.
I never doubted my dad loved me, but I grew up feeling like he was always disappointed with me.
I tried to win his approval by being obedient, being the “good girl” who didn’t stir the pot. But it was exhausting. I just couldn’t keep it up, so I would run away to get a breather from “being good” then come back home and “repent” to earn my dad’s favor again.
I felt like my father expected me to be perfect, and when I wasn’t, it seemed to make him more sad and ashamed than angry.
What I didn’t know was that my dad was running from his own shameful past.
He had secrets. And the shame of those secrets caused him to be very strict with his children. Unusually strict. He didn’t do it because he was intentionally mean. He wasn’t. Not at all!
I believe his thought process was, if I can teach my kids to just “be good” and obey the rules then they won’t mess up as bad as I did. They won’t have to live with the shame of sin and the secrets that accompany it.
How sad. How very, very sad.
Like my mom said, the enemy will try to keep us conscious of our sin instead of God’s grace because once we have a grasp on the goodness of His grace, shame no longer has a hold on us.
I believe if Dad had been more open with us kids about his past, we would have understood what he was trying to keep us from and been less likely to rebel. It took years of being on this emotional roller coaster ride of running, repenting, and running again before I realized I just needed to get off. I began to seek a better understanding of the love of God and of the precious blood of Jesus that had been sacrificed so I wouldn’t have to try to earn my way into God’s presence.
This discovery process wasn’t easy though.
I had to forgive my father for making me feel unworthy, which wasn’t hard when I finally understood where he was coming from. I began to learn what Father God thought about me, and who He said I was. That I didn’t have to perform for Him, or be good all the time, or clean up my life before I came into His presence. I found that running into the presence of God instead of away from it was much less exhausting because, in His presence, I would find true peace and rest.
I began to gather tools to help me come against this way of shameful thinking because—trust me—changing your thinking doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, I’m still working on it.
Through this blog, we hope to use these tools together to stop this harmful cycle of trying to earn the amazing love of Jesus that brings freedom from guilt and shame.
Sometime soon I’ll tell you how not running away from my problems but running into the presence of God saved my troubled marriage.
For now, back to you, Mom.
Thanks for sharing, Becca. That was great!
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