a million sin-miles away (my testimony)
As I mentioned in my last post, I recently got to share my testimony with my new church family at Austin Ridge Bible Church. In doing so, I realized I had never really never shared the story of how I came to faith on this blog and thought that should be remedied immediately – because the thing is – I LOVE to tell my story. It is precious to me and one of the best love stories; a story chock-full of drama and romance and being pursued by God. Even after telling it for almost 12 years now, I simply cannot get through it without my heart welling up with thankfulness and my eyes welling up with tears. My church recently asked if they could use it as part of their Ridge Stories Series, believing that sharing our stories can often encourage others and is a great way to celebrate God’s character, truth, and grace in our lives. It is my desire to do just that.
See, I know first-hand how someone’s willingness to share their story can bring healing, hope, and new life to someone else. Having spent so much of my life terrified of church, against the concept of organized religion, and unsure about the relevancy and character of God, it was only when someone shared the raw and barren truth of who they used to be and how God had been working in their lives to change and heal them that I actually took any interest in having a relationship with God. And from that person’s willingness to be honest about their struggles, I was able to see how good and loving God really is.
I believe that when we tell our stories, we tell the story of the gospel. They are the stories of failure and forgiveness, of refining and redemption, and of healing and hope. And really, what good are the stories He has given us if they are never told? What good are our songs if they are never given a voice? And what good is redemption if no one ever knows the Redeemer? Only our failures can give voice to his healing and power. And it is only when we strip ourselves down to the messes we are and dare to be seen that we give his redemption a chance to shine.
May I share my mess with you? May I share my story?
A Million Sin-Miles Away
As a young woman in my mid-twenties, I should have been having the best years of my life. I was very successful in my career and out every night in one of the greatest cities on earth, but I was desperately lonely. I coped the best way I knew how, the way I always had. I partied a lot, hung out with “friends” who were nothing more than drinking buddies, and moved from one “relationship” to another. I had no real friends, no close family, and no foundation of faith. I begin to notice that ache and wondered how to fill it, but I couldn’t think of where to start.
My longing to come home to the great state of Texas became too much, and so I negotiated with my company to let me transfer. As long as I completed my current development project, I could leave with a big bonus in hand. I began to hire and train like crazy, bringing on a few folks I didn’t particularly love, just to get the job done. One of these people was Celina. She was one of those adorably happy people, which was grating. And she pranced around with a holier than thou attitude – full of sunshine and answers for life – you know the type.
Soon after training started, we told her she needed to quit walking around with her nose in the air. I will never forget her response. She said, “Really? Wow – that’s terrible. I better go home and think about that.” Celina came back the next day and surprised me even more in saying, “I thought about what you said. I also prayed about it and I talked to my husband. And you’re right – I do sometimes have a bad attitude. Thank you for pointing that out because that is not who I want to be. I am going to be working on that.” Um… what?! That certainly got my attention.
Celina and I had to work together a lot after that, especially on Sundays. I would sit across the office and glare at her through my hangover. She would prance into the office in her little cute church dress with her big happy smile and her Bible, and I. Would. Hate. Her.
Then one day she looked up at me and asked, “How about you, Christine? Do you have a relationship with God?” I remember my answer to her – clear as day – I said, “God doesn’t want any part of me.” And she said, surprising me once again, “Honey, if He wanted me, He wants you. Trust me on that.”
And then she began to share her story. She described a life of drugs and sex and sin that made me look like a saint (incredibly challenging to do.) And all the while, I sat astounded. And my heart began to think that maybe, just maybe, God might want me after all. Then she began to share who she had been becoming since she gave her life over to him. And I begin to listen.
She asked if we could begin reading the bible together. I liked what I was learning, but there was still that deep-seeded fear that I had wandered too far from God to ever be invited back. Then one day she asked me again, “How about you, Christine? Would you like to have a relationship with God?” And I told her how I felt: Like God was so far away from where I was, millions of sin-miles, so to speak.
And she said, “Well, let me take the pressure off of you. YOU don’t have to find your way back to anything. Christine, He will come to you.” She explained that Jesus wasn’t sitting in some big palace waiting for people to get their mess together. He went to them, and He did it while they were still broken and messy.
She told me that He was right there with us, right that very second, and that if I wanted to know him, all I had to do was to turn my heart to him and ask. I could just tell him that I loved him and that I believed. I could just admit I was broken and a mess. I could just tell him that I wanted him in my life and needed his forgiveness. And He would give it freely.
So right then and right there… on the floor of my office in Chicago, that great big cold city where I had found myself so lonely and so lost, I gave my life to Christ.
My story and my mess, has made Romans 8:38 a living breathing scripture for me. That “…NOTHING in all of creation can separate us from the love of God that is found in Christ Jesus our Lord…” My hope and prayer is that God will position me before more lost and lonely souls. And that when they say the same thing I said all those years ago – that “God doesn’t want any part me,” I will be able to look them right in the eye and tell them, “Honey, if He wanted me, He wants you. Trust me on that.”
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Thanks for letting me share. I would like to encourage you, if you have ever felt like God wouldn’t want you or that you have simply wandered too far away from His grace & love, to stop believing that lie. God desires nothing more than to bring His children into relationship with Him. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO GET YOUR LIFE TOGETHER before you come to Him. He loves you and accepts you just the way you are and if you open your heart to Him, He will gladly call you His.
If you aren’t sure what it takes to have a relationship with Him, do what I did: Tell Him that you aren’t sure what it all means, but you know you are missing something. Tell him that you love Him, believe that Jesus died for your sins, and that you need Him in your life. Admit that you are broken and hurting and need His forgiveness. Ask Him to be a part of your heart and life and that you give it over, wholeheartedly, to Him. And then rest assuredly, knowing that He is a God who keeps His promises and that He will answer you. If you have any questions about this or want to talk it over, please contact me.