by Beth Nyhart
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst.
-1 Timothy 1:15
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
-The Jesus Prayer, based on Luke 18:10-14
I have been in a working relationship with God for about 20 years now, and in my experience, he places people at each point in the road to help you when you need it. I've met people who have helped me learn to be transparent, learn to be brave, learn to have integrity.. and my prayer is that I can be one of those people for you.
If I were to be one of your people, I think I would be the person who helps you learn how to deal with sin. Sin is a weird topic. Some people avoid it because it is nicer to talk about the positive things, like faith, grace, love & joy. Some people carve laws and lists in stone and condemn anyone who chooses to live their life outside of those rigid boundaries.
I'd rather not be either of those people. I think that sin is all about your heart and the Holy Spirit's prompting in your life, and the Bible is the solid truth to base those convictions on. That doesn't make the Bible an exhaustive concordance of what is and is not okay, but it does make the Bible our most valuable insight into the mind & heart of God. When we decide to make decisions that have no Biblical precedent there needs to be much prayer and study, seeking wise advice, searching our hearts for selfish motive. Sin is a sneaky beast, and it creeps in so naturally that we don't notice unless we are vigilant.
My story includes a lot of sin; the ugly kind that you can't justify or explain away. But I've come to peace with that, because the ugly sin in my life makes God's grace look all the more beautiful in contrast. If I can be any kind of example or hope to someone else stuck in that endless cycle of secrecy and fear, I don't mind any cost there may be to my reputation.
I was introduced to pornography as a kid, and since then, my tendency when I'm bored or stressed or upset is to seek the escape of sexual fantasy. I spent 10 years hiding my addiction because I was afraid of people's reaction, but more importantly, I hid my sin because secretly I loved it and didn't want to give it up. Addictions escalate, and over those 10 years mine escalated at an alarming rate until I was attracted to a level of depravity that made me feel sick when I really thought about it.
At 17, I finally decided that this needed to end, and I entered a year long discipleship program and confessed my sin to trusted advisors. They held me accountable that year, and for years beyond that. I started studying the nature of sin, how it infiltrates our lives and how it cuts us off from the love and forgiveness that God has available for us.
These days, I see Christians all around me who accept a filtered version of what it means to be a sinner. Churches teach that Satan is our mortal enemy, when really the sin that we harbor in our hearts is what separates us from God. We need to be willing to dig out and expose our secrets and our shame, knowing that everyone else has their own version of sin that keeps them hostage. Why are we content to be held hostage? Why do we hold God at arm's length, thinking that if we surrender our sin to him that he would somehow fail us?
I remember being there. I read the book Passion & Purity by Elisabeth Elliot, and one of the parts that stuck out to me was this, "The heart set to do the Father's will need never fear defeat. His promises of guidance may be fully counted upon. Does it make sense to believe that the Shepherd would care less about getting His sheep where He wants them to go than they care about getting there?"
We can trust God to guide us. We can trust him to be good to us. I had to believe that the risk of confessing my sin was worth the reward of peace and forgiveness that was promised to me. And even though it was mortifying at the time, the peace was instantaneous. Even though I still deal with temptation in all the old weak spots, I know now the joy of freedom, and I will never go back to slavery.
Is that you? Do you feel trapped by a secret? Are you pretending like you don't know what I'm talking about?
God is so faithful to us in our faithlessness. He gives us good gifts and steadfast love when we deserve harsh punishment. You can be free from the mess and shame. I promise you this. And if you need someone to walk beside you, I am your girl.
If you aren't ready to step out of the shadows, that's okay. Keep reading and watching, keep praying for courage. I'll be out here in the light waiting for you to join me.