What Defines a Person . . .

3338710223_a1ba090d11. . . thank the Lord it doesn’t have to be the past.

I was in my last year at bible college, on a good path toward a great future, in love with a guy I’d met over the summer who now lived hours away, preparing for a vocation in full-time ministry.  I was ready to be back in the swing of things after a crazy summer of working, ministering, heat, and lust.  And then, I’m puking in the mornings, nauseous as I stand in worship during chapel, gaining weight, pregnant.  I wasn’t too surprised, after the last couple of months I’d had, but the timing was just so bad.  My summer sins couldn’t be swept under the rug or left at the chapel altar.  I couldn’t simply work out my “issue” through repentance and prayer and serious meditation and fasting.  Spiritual exercises alone couldn’t make this right. My sins were going to be out there for all to see, literally.

I knew the consequences of my adulterous of choices.  I would be asked to leave school, relinquishing my scholarships and decent reputation, my good track toward a great future would be over.  And if dealing with  a baby on the way wasn’t enough, I had also put myself in a position to deal with the one of the gravest things of all–the loss of my calling.

I was certain that my sins had finally caught up with me, and my calling of ministry was kaput for there are just some sins too big to be reconciled on earth–maybe not in heaven, but certainly here on earth–and I had committed one of the big ones.

I was praying at the chapel altar one day, my secret safely hidden, weeping for what I felt I could never have and do.  I was crying my final apologies to the Lord and grieving the loss of a dream.  I didn’t know what I would do.  Ministry was all I had wanted; it was all I dreamed of doing.  Now that the door was closed to me, and I felt lost.  I had been praying for a miscarriage, but none came, and I repented of that as well.  My heart was broken, but my resolve was sure:  I would marry my Joe, and we would raise this baby.  And I would be a waitress or shop girl or something else.

But as I bowed low at the altar that day, I also felt the Spirit of God descend upon my soul.  In the midst of my anguish, He impressed to me: Your sin does not define you, I do.  I called you years ago, knowing this would happen.  You are still called.  You are still loved.  Go forward in My calling and My grace, for you are forgiven.

The tears fell fresh again, for God spoke his truth to me in that moment and made it right.  God really is that good!  I got up from that place that day with a powerful experience of God’s great goodness that I still carry with me.  I married my Joe, and I love him so!  We had our little baby girl, and I thank God, so very very often that He did not answer my foolish prayers of miscarriage–I can’t imagine not having her, of what our life would be like if she were absent, and that is over 9 years ago!  With the great love of God we’ve managed a pretty great life together, my guy and me, and even have another little guy who’s rounding the corner to 8.  Life is truly wonderful when it’s graced of God.  He helped me go forward with my head high and no looking back.  I don’t have time to wallow in the sins of my past for I have a great life to live and a promising future before me.

I learned, most acutely that day over 10 years ago, that I am not defined by my sin.  Instead, I am defined by God.  It doesn’t matter what others may say or try to put on me.  It doesn’t matter what Satan may want me to believe about myself.  Even on my ugly, doubtful, restless, lethargic days, it’s God who gets the say-so about who I am and the future He has planned for me.  Everyday I get to live in that reality if I will only open the door and step in.

I am loved.

I am called.

I am forgiven.

I am blessed.

I am strong.

I am able.

I am victorious.

I am free.

I am cleansed.

I am filled.

I am changed.

I am favored.

I am sheltered.

I am His.

But here’s the thing, every single day is a choice.  I have to choose to live in God’s grace and goodness.  I have to re-choose, again and again, what defines me.  I can spin out of order and live in self-doubt, fear and condemnation if I want.  OR, I can live in the Truth of grace poured out to me through Christ and available by his Holy Spirit.  I have to continually remind myself of what defines me–my past, my bank account, the tags in my clothes, the size of my house, who I was in high school, my job, or Jesus.

Today I’m choosing Jesus.  And tomorrow, I want to choose Jesus.  And the next day.  And the next.  And the next . . .  But each day I have to choose.  So do you.

I don’t know what you might be struggling with.  I don’t know your past, but God does.  And He is not surprised.  Know that you are beloved by God and, like me, your sin does not have to define you.  You are not your past.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (NIV).

I’m living in God’s good plans for me and buoyed by the hope He bestows.  Are you with me?  If so, praise the Lord!  If not, I pray that the goodness of God sweeps over your soul and you sense Him calling your name and bringing the bits and pieces of your life together again, making something beautiful and good out of what you thought was broken and beyond repair.  Know that with God, nothing is beyond redemption, all things are possible!

 

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