Erin | Before I Knew Him

My name is Erin.

Pride and insecurity. They don’t go together, but they are a big part of my story. I guess it starts like this: He had His hand upon me even before I knew Him ….

Like so many in this country, I grew up in a broken home—I don’t remember the time of my parents being married as they were divorced when I was 3. But I don’t share that to call myself a victim. Despite the label “broken home,” I was deeply loved and cared for by my two wonderful parents, even if they were not living together.  I was raised by a single mother who worked hard every day to provide for 3 kids. For that I am truly grateful.  I am also grateful that my mother sent me and my sisters to a Catholic church every week for their youth program, even though she didn’t attend the services herself.  She wanted us to have a “foundation” of God, and I know now that God used this time to give us just that. I didn’t understand what being a Catholic, or even a Christian meant, and I didn’t understand who Jesus was and what it meant that He “died for my sins,” but I believed it—or at least I wanted to—and I definitely wanted to be in Heaven where He lived!  So I spent many a childhood night praying to this God that I didn’t fully understand but I believed with all my heart that He was real!

My faith in Jesus came to a total understanding when I was 14, when I attended a non-denominational church with a friend. I had been away from the Catholic church for a year and had begun to feel a desire to be back in the church family and “take it more seriously.” I now know that was the Lord drawing me to Him! My first time attending youth group in this new Christian church, I began to learn about who Jesus was and what it meant that He died for my sins. It was like a light-bulb coming on, and I understood that I was a sinner in need of a savior, and that Christ was that Savior for me! Well yes, I thought, of course I want to accept Jesus as my Savior and ask Him into my heart! And so I was baptized at 14 as a new believer, and it was genuine.

So I was “saved” when I was 14 years old, but honestly, I feel like it has only been the last several years (as a now 32-year old) that I am learning what it means to truly surrender my life to Christ, and to live in the freedom of His grace, despite my imperfections, weaknesses, failures, and sin.

You see, I haven’t always recognized my weaknesses, or my sin. And that has led to the biggest sin in my life—pride. My testimony is not one of hitting rock bottom before I had to see the light, so to speak. I am thankful that it isn’t, and yet I now realize that I have often been blinded and even stunted in my growth in the Lord because of my own perceived “goodness.” I was always a good kid! I didn’t rebel. I didn’t experiment with drugs. I took D.A.R.E. seriously! I didn’t go to parties and I didn’t even like the taste of alcohol, let alone have the desire to drink it. I got good grades. I didn’t look for love in all the wrong places, but instead waited, although not always patiently, for the husband that Lord had for me (who came along at 26). Teachers liked me. Employers liked me. Most people liked me! I had a pretty good life. I loved the Lord and I wanted to grow in Him, but I definitely took pride in my “goodness” and my good life choices. I pretty much thought I had it all figured out, and if I didn’t, well then, I could figure it out soon enough!

Only in the last few years has it become so clear to me this issue of pride that I have carried through my life. It’s a sneaky, dangerous thing! It wasn’t like an obvious, outward pride. It was quiet and subtle and sometimes even unconscious. Even though I knew the doctrine that I couldn’t earn God’s favor or His salvation, I always felt like I was still worthy of it. Like, “I know I’m a sinner and I need you, but I probably don’t need you as much as all those other people out there.”

Well, all of this “feeling good about myself” eventually had an opposite effect on my relationship with the Lord, and even with myself. After living with a mindset that you are a good and worthy person, you begin to feel the pressure of having to keep up your goodness. You have a hard time admitting your faults, not sharing your struggles with others, not wanting to tarnish your good image. And it’s definitely a wall between you and the Lord. As the Lord led me into new life experiences of becoming a wife and mother, I started to be faced more and more with my weaknesses and my shortcomings—I found out I wasn’t a perfect wife or mom (surprise, surprise!). I struggled with my self-image more and became very insecure about the way I looked. I was caring way too much about what other people thought of me! I wanted to grow in the Lord but struggled to pray or read my Bible, and then of course felt constantly guilty about it. I struggled with feeling like I wasn’t “doing enough” for the Lord. I was feeling my weaknesses and my imperfections so deeply and wallowing in self-pity because of it, quietly of course. On the outside, I was smiling. I was the most insecure “confident” person you had ever met.

Christ never condemned me, but I was condemning myself for all my shortcomings, and worse, I was mistaking that self-condemnation as God being unhappy with me. I have often carried a burden of feeling like I have disappointed God, when I was only disappointing myself. And the enemy has used that to weigh me down, to cause me to strive for a perfectionism that doesn’t exist and that the Lord never asked or expected of me. I was drifting into a works-based faith mentality, even though I knew that I couldn’t earn God’s favor or salvation! I was trying to stay worthy!

In the midst of all of this as I cried out to Him in need, feeling like a total mess and a total disappointment, He brought me back to His truth and revealed to me the sin of my pride. I wanted to surrender my life to Christ, but how can you completely surrender if you haven’t come to an understanding of your total need for Him? And how can you learn to trust Him more if you are trusting yourself? So He helped me remember…. He had His hand upon me even before I knew Him: I chose you when you were a child. I drew you to me even though you didn’t know me. You didn’t choose me, I CHOSE YOU!  Of course! There was no rhyme or reason to it. Why should I have grown to know the Lord, especially as a child growing up in a non-Christian home? I could have totally gone the other way. But God chose me, not because I was worthy, but because He loved me and wanted me for His own.

“And I love you the same, each and every day. I never change. I am the same yesterday, today, and forever. My thoughts of you and my love for you will never change. So quit trying to earn something you already have. Lay down your pride. Lay down your burdens of never being perfect. Be free. I have saved you by grace, and now I will keep you in that grace.”

As I reflect on my walk with the Lord since the age of 14, I am most humbled when I realize that He has never left me or abandoned me, even during all those years of quietly living with pride in my heart, even when I didn’t completely understand my total need for him, even when I thought I was somehow “good enough.” He was still always working in my life. I see that God is so patient to teach us and guide us as we walk with Him. He doesn’t give up on us when we are too stubborn or blind to understand what He is trying to show us! He doesn’t condemn me when I fail time and time again. He doesn’t change His mind about me but loves me the same every day. When I am close to Him, He is close to me. When I am not close to Him, He is still close to me. And He is faithful to carry me each and every day, to draw me unto Himself, in my best days and my worst. And believing that truth has helped me to not only accept God’s salvation, but to live fully in the freedom of His grace.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

1 Peter 2:9 …for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

John 1:16 From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.

John 3:34-36 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. 

Note from Aurelia: If you are struggling with your story, Erin shares her thoughts about writing her testimony in THIS POST, click the link to check it out!

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