I have a compassion for sinners that most "Christian" people don't have. I put Christian in quotations because Christian means "little Christ" and if we were truly "little Christ"s we would have immense compassion for sinners like He did. My compassion comes less from a Christ likeness and more from an understanding. I've been there, in the proverbial mud. I rolled around in it, and to be honest I enjoyed it. The Bible says there is, "Pleasure in sin for a season." and the Bible is entirely true. It is fun in the moment. Like skydiving without a parachute, there is something beautifully exhilarating about the fall until it all comes to a deadly climax. After all, "Sin when it is finished, bringeth forth death."
So there I was, a eighteen year old Christian girl who was being a light to no one. I had taken my light and covered it in skimpy clothes and empty smiles so that when people looked at me they could not see it.
You can't see it in the pictures. You might be able to see my attitude, but you can't see the filth I was living in. Understand? I was hiding it as well as I could. I still went where my parents went and wore what they let me wear, but when they weren't around I was meeting up with several guys a day. Disobeying at the least, but it was more than that.
Most of you at least know the gist of the story if I say "The Prodigal Son". It's a story in the Bible about a man with two sons. The younger son takes his inheritance from his father before it is time and leaves his family to go into the world. There he wastes his substance with riotous living. He partied hard. He rolled in the glitter and sucked every drop of poisonous pleasure out of the world. You know how I know?
It's my life story.
I took my heavenly Father's gifts and ran off to live on my own, putting my desire above the life my Father was offering me. When everything was over, my boyfriend and I had been kicked out of the Christian college we had met at. The people who I thought were my friends only wanted me for the same selfish reasons that I wanted them and so I stood alone. Alone with my mask of lies.
There was so much Christ-like love shown to me in this time. I admit that there were sideways glances and whispering words from many, but my family loved me selflessly. When I was honest with my parents, they forgave me. They disciplined me, but they loved me to pieces. Especially my father, surprised me in his reaction to my sinful failure. He loved me with no condemnation. I think that was a large part of the healing that took place; My entire family was there for me with open arms.
In fact, it was my brother Chris who asked me the question. It was my brother Chris who turned me back toward the Father.
Amanda, what are you doing with your life?He wasn't asking me what I was going to major in if I ever went back to college. He was asking me why I had taken all the goodness of God and traded it for a couple summers of stomach wrenching "fun".
He invited me to a Game Night that he had been attending and I reluctantly showed up. I found a joy in these teens that I hadn't experienced in years. Their innocence was like a warm fire and it drew me in and invited me to stay. They stayed out just as late and had just as much fun as I had enjoyed the summers before, but with one huge difference. No one drank. No one made out. No one told inappropriate jokes. They were Christians. All they did was play games with each other, have Bible studies, and laugh with hope and peace in their eyes.
It was so attractive.
Just like the Prodigal Son, I knew that I had given up the peace and hope for my own pleasure and I sheepishly headed back toward home. As the Prodigal Son began his long walk home, his father saw him a long way off and RAN out to meet him. Just like that, as I did my slow u-turn I know my Heavenly Father was watching for me. He had been waiting for me to turn around. I was His child, always.
When I was nine years old and I asked Jesus Christ to be my Savior, I became a child of God. Not because suddenly I was righteous, but because suddenly I had Jesus Christ's perfection placed on top of me. When I turned my back on God, I was still His child. All that changed was my position toward Him, not His position toward me. He was always turned toward me with arms wide open.
It was like a cleansing and forgiving wave. I was able, by God's grace, to give up the things that had become habitual. This new group of teens became my close friends and I don't know if they ever knew what a difference their innocence made in my life. After months of attending, I fell in love with the man in charge of it all. He is God's gift to me.
While I was busy dating all of his peers, Matthew was busy saving himself for his future wife. He was loving me, when I was spitting in his face. Neither of us knew at the time, of course, but we were living out another story of God's grace. He, just like God the Father, loved me even though I had failed him. He forgave me.
It's all history from there. God gave me a husband who knows every single one of my secrets and forgave me.
Want to see something sad?
Remember that picture from Part One? I didn't tell you that that was Matthew. There he is. I was nine years old and he was two feet away. I wish we had fallen in love then. I wish he had been my first everything like I got to be his. I wish I had loved him my whole life, but I didn't.
I'd like to take this opportunity to sum my life up: I am so thankful for forgiveness and redeeming love.
Over ten years later, about twenty feet from where the camera had snapped our first picture together, Matthew proposed to me on the playground in the pouring rain. Next month it will be a year that we have lived together as husband and wife. Neither of us are perfect, but we love each other like crazy and look forward to what God wants to do with us as we stand in our place and let our lives be large flashing signs that scream, "For God so loved you that He gave His only begotten Son."