The phone never felt as heavy as it did in my hand in that moment. Pacing back and forth at the foot of my bed, with sweaty palms and shaking thumbs, I unleashed the heavy truth onto an unsuspecting friend.
A simple invitation is what she had sent me, to a Bible study group starting that Thursday evening, in her home. A group of women would be there, that I would be reuniting with after a few years of choosing to be out doing my own thing. That is what she had offered. What I sent her in return, was not a simple, “Great! See you soon!”
My heart was heavy from the pain of my current reality. Having no more room to pretend, the consequences of my choices enclosed me, much like the walls erected around my heart. Only now, I had no place left to go, and nothing to loose. I was tired. Tired of running…
The intensity of the moment is hard to describe as I recalled the days and months leading up to this exchange. I had been hiding and had done an ok job at keeping my double life a secret for quite some time…at least I thought I had become good at it. But, as I look back, I am sure it was probably more obvious than I realized.
I was conflicted. Inside, I was at war with myself and creating chaos everywhere I went. The part of me that knew the truth of God, had grown up in church hearing, and spent most of my life sharing with others, was waging war with the part of myself that had claimed my identity. A part of me that I had come to hate, but couldn't shake. Patterns of old behaviors and countless relationships that I believed offered the acceptance and love that I so longed for, only turned into cycles of shame and regret. These times of wandering, separated by years of walking faithfully with the Lord, where I vowed I would never go back there again. It was puzzling how this all could be true, but it was.
In that moment of desperation at the foot of my bed, my mascara-filled tears streaked my cheeks, dripping down and off my chin, onto my shaking hands as I text the words... "...I am pregnant, ..."
My heart racing, eyes blurred from the tears still welling up, then pouring down...carrying the weight of shame, and desperation as they stained my shirt.
And I hit send.
There I stood, already a single mom, of a sweet beauty just seven years old. I was overwhelmed by the reality of what I had done, and the number of innocent loved ones who’s lives would be forever changed because of this dark truth. But in those moments, I couldn’t even see past my own despair, as the secret life was now being exposed in the most public way.
My heart in pieces...my life in shambles. I was longing for the hope of a rescuer to save me from my self-destructive patterns. I was in desperate need of the Savior I claimed ruled my broken and wandering heart.
I was a mess...and in my eyes, my friend was pretty much perfect. I assumed she would probably be like the others who had already “heard through the grapevine”, and be just as shocked and disgusted by all I had managed to destroy in such a short period of time. I couldn't bare to look at myself in the mirror. How could anyone else bare to look at me knowing the truth of all I had done?
I was an adulterous woman.
You see, until this moment, my friend had only known parts of me, parts of my story… only what I felt she could handle. Despite faithfully attending her women's Bible study a few years prior, she only knew what I thought would allow our relationship to continue. The rest of me, my struggles, my vices, it was too much.
I was fearful to truly allow anyone into the secret and broken places of my heart, the unlovable parts of me, at least anyone from the “church”. It was vulnerable, and the risk of rejection was too great. I wanted authentic relationships, but in my state of mind, the only thing that felt authentic was the acceptance I found in my "other reality". I was never judged. They were just like me, damaged, addicted and living a life that was permissive, but accepted.
But now the text was sent, and one of the most prominent leaders of my church now held my truth in her hands. I was exposed.
I clenched my phone tightly in my hands and wept, and waited.
I am often reminded of the following story in the Bible, because it is taught often in the church I grew up in, at their women’s retreats. It is a story that offers hope, and restoration to the wanderer. It gives us a glimpse of our Heavenly Father’s heart towards His children. We find it in Luke 15:11-32, it is one of Jesus’ teachings often called “The Parable of the Lost Son”. In the story, we hear of a man who has two sons, and one of these sons decided that he was going to do the unthinkable in that time, and ask for the gift of his inheritance while his father was still living. The father obliged and graciously gave his son what he asked, and watched as he left home to go to a far off country where he spent all he had been given on wild living and sleeping with prostitutes. He spent everything. A while later, there was a famine in that country, and he ended up working for someone tending to the pigs of the field. It became so bad, that he was starving to death, longing to be able to eat the slop that was fed to the pigs he tended, but no one gave him anything. He was destitute. He was filthy. He was starving. Exhausted by his running and wondering how he ended up there. His wild life stripped him of all he had, including his dignity. No one was willing to offer him help in the place where he went thinking he would be better off. Now, in a moment of desperation, the Word tells us he came to his senses.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
I can imagine the son’s regret. The heaviness of his reality and the long journey back home. I imagine his legs were tired and shaking with each step he took as he got closer and closer to his father’s home, just as my hands were shaking as I typed the regret filled words to my friend. The fear of not knowing what kind of response his father will greet him with after he had chosen to dishonor him so greatly. I wonder if he worried that he would send him back into the wilderness, where he certainly deserved to be. I will refer to this journey back home, as the “walk of shame”.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
The next moments in this intense texting exchange and the meetings that followed over the next days and months were life altering. As I made my own “walk of shame”, back to the Father’s house, the words which she spoke to me in our first meeting, are words I will never forget. After meeting face to face and hearing the anguish in my voice as I replayed the story again out loud, she said, “The first thing we have to do is remove all shame.” Shame. The result of our sin, that we were never created to experience.
My friend had a choice, and she chose to see me through her Father’s eyes. She chose to run in my direction, while I was still a long ways off and embraced me before I had even begun to clean myself up…and with a long way to go before I was completely surrendered to the Father. Her love and compassion for me in that very moment was beyond what we would expect in the natural realm of relationship when we have epically failed. I didn’t deserve kindness. But, when others were whispering about me, she was proud to be seen with me. She chose to speak truth to me, but not the “truth” I was expecting. She spoke the Father’s words of love and kindness over my brokenness. She chose to help me remember who I am, and restore my TRUE identity as the daughter of The King of Kings. She chose to speak words of life over me, and offered to be there for me every step of the way, always pointing me back to Jesus when I struggled. She represented her Father well.
While I was undeserving...His love was unwavering. It was unconditional and kind. It is through His kindness, that our hearts are lead to repentance.
4 Or do you have no regard for the wealth of His kindness and tolerance and patience [in withholding His wrath]? Are you [actually] unaware or ignorant [of the fact] that God’s kindness leads you to repentance [that is, to change your inner self, your old way of thinking—seek His purpose for your life]?
Romans 2:4 Amplified Bible (AMP)
It is His mercy that triumphs over judgment!
I am so grateful for the love of a Heavenly Father that loves us in spite of our mistakes…no matter how colossal!
Man, I cannot imagine being on the receiving side of the text message I sent her! I laid out some pretty heavy and heartbreaking truth, for my friend to process. The raw and shocking details of all that had transpired for me to end up there. I recall thinking, it was all or nothing in that moment of truth.
One thing I do know, I honestly would have had a hard time with how to respond. There definitely would have been some internal talk going down in my head, if it didn’t come flying out of my mouth before I could pause to catch it if I had been on the receiving end of that message from a “sister in Christ”… "You did what!? Are you kidding me?! You know better than that, girl? What's wrong with you? Shame on you! And you call yourself a Christian?" Then, I may even proceed to hit the "Unfriend" button on every social media platform, as to not want to be associated with, or be viewed as someone who condones such vile living. And I get it, that's definitely what would be going through our heads, right? That's what I deserved, and I knew it! I was expecting nothing less than a righteous scolding for all that I had done wrong. I was waiting for the truthful words to flow from her perfect lips, and confirm in my mind and heart what I already believed to be true, I am a horrible person. I expected her to wash her hands of me.
I had a revelation while preparing to share part of my story, and I cannot help but fall more in love with His compassionate heart for us, as his children. You see, Jesus knew that would tend to be our initial response inside, he knew that we would have this same struggle. He knew, that even as His children, we would be compelled to not just hate sin when we see it so blatantly, so obvious, and so wrong, but that we would also struggle with how to respond to a fallen friend. And I believe it is His compassion for us and grace towards us, that he included the following verses in this story. As we look at the other son’s response to his lost brother coming back home, I can’t help but relate to how he must have felt.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
This older son was of the same inheritance, everything the father had, was his. He was the son who had been spending the most time with his father, more than anyone. Yet, even he didn’t realize the depth of his father’s love for his children. As sons and daughters of the King, we can often live our lives in a way that brings Him glory and honor through righteous living and faithfulness, and still miss out on the revelation of the depth of His unending love for us, and for those around us. To the measure it is realized, is often the measure we are able to give. If we don’t understand just how lavish His love truly is, we are incapable of extending it the way that he does, infinitely.
There is just something about the Love of Jesus that doesn’t make sense to the world. A love that offers forgiveness and restoration, when we deserve to suffer under the weight of our consequences. I am in awe of the Father’s heart towards us, and the level of love He has given me through my invaluable friend.
I often think of these moments in time, and while it seems like that person I had become is a stranger now, the ongoing battle against the enemies schemes to remind me of the past and his attempts to make me identify with that person, rather than as the Daughter of the King are real and continue. The consequences of my choices are also very real, and the healing of the affected relationships is ongoing. The Lord, in His kindness, continues to unveil the deep wounds of the past that shame has strived to keep hidden, so that He can continue His good work in my life until it is made complete. The enemy’s goal is to steal and kill and destroy. But the Lord's promise is to give life to the full, and I am standing on His promises, that all things will be restored. (John 10:10)
I wonder what would have happened had my friend decided what I confessed was just too much for her to deal with in that moment. What if she saw my mess, and decided she was too busy to get dirty with me and help me clean my life up. What if she told me, or others, I should have known better than to be living like that, and I deserve whatever is coming my way. What if she had chosen judgment over mercy in those vulnerable, life-altering moments, which became the turning point in the course of my life, forevermore.
I don't know. I don't know if I would have given my life over to Christ completely, had she responded in another way. I don't know where I would have run to looking for acceptance. I don't know if I would have my beautiful family now. I don't know if I would be able to say that I've been faithfully married for over four and a half years. I don't know if I would have ever begun to realize my identity as a redeemed, daughter of the King of Kings. I just don't know.
Having the eyes of the Father will not only change you, but it will forever change the world all around you, which is desperately awaiting His love.
My story might be different than yours...maybe it's messier...maybe you are walking yours out at this very moment and you're unsure of what will come next. One thing I know for sure is that regardless of how others have treated you, even those who represent Jesus around you who may have hurt you, your Heavenly Father looks down on you with nothing but eyes of compassion and love. When we have run as far off as we can possibly run, His love is still present...and it's waiting. No matter what you have done, there is no sin too great that can separate you from His love. There is nothing you’ve done that He doesn’t already know about, no matter how well you think you have kept it hidden. God will use the very thing that was meant to destroy you to deliver you. My story is not over…and neither is yours. Don’t despair, cry out to Jesus!
There is healing in repentance and restoration in His love, and it is yours!