My testimony seems pretty simple at first glance – it’s probably not anything you haven’t seen before. My parents raised me in a Baptist church, where we each heavily participated in activities, and around age 6, I began to ask my parents questions about Jesus. I prayed the “sinner’s prayer” with my dad not long after. Pretty standard, right?
When I was entering high-school, I heard a friend’s testimony I couldn’t quite shake; another member of my youth group, with a cookie-cutter story like mine, sharing his revelation.
His decision had been more out of respect for his parents, fear of hell, and a desire to please his church family than as a result of a deep love for Jesus, and I realized, “Me, too!”.
That night, I decided I truly wanted to follow Jesus, whatever that looked like, for the rest of my life. I’d like to think I was drastically changed from that exact moment, and while Jesus continued to draw me to Himself from then on, there didn’t seem to be much for me to “turn from” as a 13 year old.
I wasn’t a “bad” kid – actually I was quite the opposite by most standards. I never drank, smoked, partied, cursed, cheated, stayed out past curfew – I thought I had everything going pretty well for me. Sure, I liked to heavily judge the other kids that did participate in those things, and I had bit of low-key sexual sin and lots of pride hiding in my closet, but from what everyone could see – I was nearly perfect by my own measure.
By the end of high-school, I was more or less the same girl. I was passionate about Jesus (or, who I thought He was at the time), moralistic, a do-gooder, an approval-seeker, and still a “good girl” in the world’s eyes, but truly, my picture-perfect world was about to change.
It wasn’t long before my parents divorced out of nowhere, an idolatrous dating relationship ended, and graduation was right around the corner, and I realized the faithfulness I thought I had to Jesus was actually…. in my circumstances.
It wasn’t until these events that I discovered I had NO idea who God truly was in Scripture – what God said about suffering in Scripture.
I had been raised in true Southern Baptist fashion, with a deep belief that a single prayer is what saved you, that drugs, sex, and alcohol were the only sins you really needed to worry about, and that life was more about comfort, ease, and success than about dying to myself and following Jesus, whatever the cost.
I started realizing that my view of God and the world was based more on popular worship songs, “The Message” version of the Bible, and whatever my church leaders said than who God revealed Himself to be through His Word; don’t get me wrong, these things can be good tools, but I never grasped the weight of the Bible being the lense through which I must interpret everything else I hear about God, and after a couple of years truly searching the Scriptures, I realized I was dead wrong about a lot of things.
It’s a scary place to be – to realize that you had not taken your own sin, or the God you claim to follow, seriously for most of your life.
I started to become aware of sin being the condition of my heart, not something that I do.
I started seeing that I had crafted a works-based gospel, deeply convinced that I had more or less saved myself by being faithful enough to choose to follow Jesus. I began to come to terms with the fact that I did not see my sin as filthy as everyone else’s – that deep down, the cross had very little significance to me because I had no concept of my own depravity. I had lived for years worshipping a God that truly, looked more like me than it did like God – a God who wasn’t in control of everything, who didn’t think my sin was that big of a deal compared to everyone else’s, and who spoke primarily through feel-good, fluffy words and not through truth.
It was a hard reality to swallow, honestly. There were many times I cried over the loss of a faith that was mostly dedicated to myself and my church, not to who God truly was – but God is so good! The more I come to know His true character through His Word, even the more difficult parts of who He is, the more beautiful He becomes to me.
The more I come to terms with the ugliness of my sin, my complete inadequacy and inability to rescue myself, the more I marvel at the extreme grace of my Savior.
The older I get, the more I realize that my testimony will always change – the Lord will always be revealing new parts of Himself and unveiling lies I believe about Him, myself, and how to follow Him. The Lord has changed my view of my story so drastically – from a girl slightly embarrassed of not having a juicier, raunchier past to a woman who feels so compelled to speak out to the “good girl” in all of us – the part of us that doesn’t realize how truly desperate we are for grace, even if our sins are not visible to the rest of the world.
I can genuinely identify with Paul, calling himself the “chief of sinners”, as I compare my heart to the standard of who Jesus was, something I never would have truthfully claimed as a younger Christian. And as my sin looms larger in my eyes, so does the cross.
The more my own wickedness is revealed to me, the more the mercy of my Father shines through. It’s a beautiful thing to be inadequate, friends.
In a world constantly urging women to be confident in their own abilities, I urge you to do the exact opposite, because the Lord’s strength is made perfect in our weakness, we are able to boast of them (2 Corinthians 12:9). As someone who continuously fights being a people-pleaser and a perfectionist, this is hard to swallow, but the beauty of the Gospel is that we were never good enough, will never be good enough, and don’t have to be good enough, because we worship a Savior who has done those things on our behalf.
Because of his sacrifice, I am enough.
You are enough.
We can rest and even boast in our weaknesses because our salvation does not lie on our own shoulders.
Isn’t that freeing?! I pray that every day would reveal a bit more of our own failures and Christ’s strength for us both, dear reader – that we would never be afraid to admit our flaws, which are washed clean by the work of Jesus.