Dragging Jesus’ name through the mud with right along with me, my fall from the faith spiraled quickly down into the cesspools of depravity. Raised in a Christian home by godly parents, saved at age ten, entrenched in church activities until I left home as a young adult, I had a strong foundation in The Word. Most of what I learned in church was religion … what you can and can’t do. As a child and teenager, I wasn’t emotionally or spiritually mature enough to understand on my own that it’s not about the law. It’s about relationship: an intimate, personal relationship with my Savior. What I needed poured into me was: if I truly LOVE my Lord, I will keep His commandments because of that love. Not because of fear. Not just for the “fire insurance.”
The downward spiral took hold in my mid-twenties. Although, at the time, I blamed my former husband for my lack of church attendance, I am and always have been a strong-willed person, so I can only allow the true blame to rest, deservedly, at my own feet. I allowed pride to become my god. I listened to the enemy and began to believe his lies. My marriage began to fall apart. When my marriage ended after nearly twenty years, at the age of 37, I willingly jumped head first into Satan’s den. Because of all the emotional scars I carried from a failed marriage, he told me that I deserved to do whatever I wanted, whatever made me feel good. I needed fun and love, he told me. So I followed the enemy like a little puppy out into the world to find fun and love. What I ended up with was self-esteem so low that I was willing to do almost anything to be accepted by anybody.
Satan broke me until I was his slave. I woke up every morning, anticipating the next party, the next opportunity to let alcohol cloud my mind and allow me to forget my troubles, my pain. I was deep in sin, all the while knowing full well how wrong it was. Along the way, I would feel conviction. To stop it, I tried to never be alone. Satan had supplied me with enough friends to ensure that I always had something to do, somewhere to go, so that I wouldn’t be alone with the Holy Spirit for very long. Those “friends” were my escape from God. I wondered how I always managed to not end up in jail, how I managed to escape physical injury or disease. Now, looking back, I can clearly see God’s Hand covering me. No doubt, He covered me with His Hand to protect me. And probably so He wouldn’t have to look at me and see the filth I was living in.
When I met my husband at the age of 40, I was so far away from God that, when Craig mentioned taking me to “his church”, I was adamant that I wasn’t going. Organized religion did nothing for me, I said. Even though neither of us was in God’s Will, or anywhere near it for that matter, He still orchestrated events that would eventually pull us together and pull us to Him.
Now that I have fully surrendered my life to the Lord, I look back over the last decade with amazement. Why would God allow me to drag His Name through the mud? Why was He always with me in those bars, in those situations that clearly caused Him anguish? Why didn’t He just allow me to die in the muck that I was wallowing in?
Every day now, it becomes clearer to me that this is the time of the final harvest. Jesus is calling His Bride to a higher state of readiness, asking that we work overtime in the trenches, demanding that we live as ambassadors of another Land. He gave me talents, skills and gifts that He does not want to go to waste. There is something that He wants me to do before taking me Home. That’s why He allowed me to stray so far away, yet provide the forgiveness and grace and allow me to come back to Him. I am so glad that my Heavenly Father is a soft-hearted Father … that His grace, His mercy is unreasonably given to a bunch of selfish, arrogant, pitiful creatures called humans … creatures that He lovingly hand-crafted from the dust to be His cherished children.
I know that there are many women who have testimonies of living for the Lord for their entire lives. They have such an aura of peace and Christ-likeness about them. I realize too, that they are sinners saved by Grace, just as I am. But I wonder if I feel a somewhat different kind of gratitude to the Lord for delivering me. You see, I knew the True Way, yet I walked through all the filth and sin of my own accord. I allowed my pride and self-preservation to be my god. The sin in my past is heinous. There are things I’ve done that I wouldn’t utter aloud to anyone. And the worst part of it is that I was raised to know Him from infancy. I knew the Truth and walked away from Him. But He took me back anyway. He wanted me back anyway. And He caused my sin to be buried beneath the depths of the deepest sea, as far away as the east is from the west. He said He will remember it no more. I borrowed/adopted a phrase from Beth Moore to describe what Jesus shows me: “Unreasonable Grace.”
When you’ve been at the bottom of the cesspool and God’s Hand reached down and plucked you out of it, I believe there can be a stronger appreciation for His forgiveness and mercy. I may not have been able to fully appreciate His mercy without nearly drowning in that pit. Perhaps that is the most important reason for His permissive Will.