I came to know the Lord when I was a young girl. I remember counting down the days and hours until the next time I could be in church. I was in awe by the joy and contentment that knowing the Lord brought me and I wanted to be with Him constantly. I remember nights when I would just lay in bed for hours and spend time with Him. I loved to feel Him draw near and was overwhelmed by the love He lavished on me.
As I grew older, I became increasingly involved in church and my relationship with God matured in some areas, but not all. Through much of middle school and high school I struggled with the concept of grace and began to believe the lies of guilt and condemnation. Every time I made a mistake, no matter how small, I felt defeated. I believed God was disappointed in me. I felt like I let Him down and I really beat myself up over it.
“Who am I to be in the presence of a God who is infinitely good? If I really love Jesus, I should sulk over my sin. I wouldn’t dare approach a God who is infinitely holy when I have a heart that feels so dirty.”
Because of the lies I believed, it became natural to apply them to others. I became extremely judgmental towards other Christians.
“If I feel guilty for my sins, then they should definitely feel guilty about theirs. Who do they think they are? If they really loved Jesus, if they were really saved, if, if, if, if……”
Because I spent so many years believing lies about the grace on my life, I eventually began to question the love God had for me. I just couldn’t grasp it. I came to believe that Jesus loved me because He promised to, because the world needed a savior. Not because He wanted to. Regardless, I continued to seek the Lord. I was *honest* with Him about my questions and my fears. I knew He lived in me and I could feel Him near, but I desperately ached for Him to bring clarity to my clouded mind.
I remember sitting in church one day and my pastor began to read a passage of scripture. He said,
“You were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind”
And there it was. Confirmation. I was a child of wrath! The Bible said it even more harshly than I had conceived it in my mind. Thankfully, my pastor didn’t stop there. He continued reading.
I can’t tell you how many times I had heard this passage. A lot of times. But something was different this time. It was as though God was speaking straight into the depths of my broken heart. I remember hearing those two words and thinking, “There’s more? The story’s not finished?” Those two words, ‘But God’, were the most relieving words I had ever heard. Those two words were the definition of hope.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus….”
God spoke to my heart that day. He reminded me of the little girl that was so passionately in love with Jesus. He reminded me that the overwhelming affection Jesus had for me as a little girl is the same love that He has for me today. He reminded me that I am cherished, valued, desired, and *blameless* in His sight. He reminded me of the freedom He gave me all those years ago.
Freedom is a gift from the Lord, but deciding to walk in freedom is a choice. A prisoner can be released from the shackles that bind her hands, yet walk away with her arms remaining behind her back. A prisoner must make a choice to walk in the freedom that was granted to her. She must remove her hands from her back and run the race to which she has been called.
Afterall, it is for freedom she was set free.