I grew up in a Christian home, and was raised in a Holy Spirit-filled church. My parents had become Christians in their early adulthood, and were each strongly called by God in specific areas. I felt a strong awareness of God’s presence in my life from an early age. I requested to be baptized at age 7. Despite tumultuous preteen years, as an early teen I had a radical experience with God at a church revival, received the Holy Spirit, and recommitted my life to Christ. Shortly after this however, my family fell away from the church. I was faced with what was the beginning of a years long battle with doubt, and ultimately rebellion from the faith I had clung to for my entire life thus far.
This doubt began as a small seed, a thought that had wiggled its way in. It began to convince me that God didn’t care about my family, or we wouldn’t be going through difficult circumstances and pain. I started to think God didn’t care about me or what I did. I chose to stop playing by “the rules” and have “fun.” For the most part I did what I wanted to do, only praying to “God” when I really needed something.
At 16, I met a boy, and fell in love. Slowly, he began to take the place of God in my life. He was the person I knew was meant for me; I was certain I was going to spend my life with him, so I justified the slow slide into immorality that followed. The life I was tempted to have grew way more desirable than the life I knew I was supposed to have in Christ. The louder the world got, the quieter God’s voice in the back of my head grew, till eventually, He became silent.
I had turned my back altogether on God, and no longer felt guilty at all. But I didn’t see it that way at the time. I had convinced myself by this time, that if there was a God, he would approve and bless me for “following my heart;” he’d want me to be happy. This is how I made peace with the conflict between what I did and what I knew to be right.
Looking back on that time in my life has caused me to feel shame for years. I made MANY mistakes. However, God has since reminded me; He forgives and forgets. He doesn’t want me shackled in shame. He wants to use that story, to His glory. I’ve been redeemed. I’ve been set free!
I recently saw a video in church about a prodigal. He asked his father to hang a white sheet on the porch if he wanted to see him again. Like the story in the Bible ends, his dad surprises him in a powerful way. I had heard this Bible story a hundred times, but as tears ran down my face, I realized for the first time, this was my story.
God loves the prodigal. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done, it doesn’t matter who we’ve become. God is waiting for us to come back to him with arms wide open, so we can become the person He designed us to be. Maybe your story of turning away seems much worse to you than mine. Maybe you’ve committed unspeakable crimes; maybe you’ve spent the better part of your life doing things your own way, and you feel it is too late to change now. Don’t. It’s not true.
The Bible clearly tells us that Jesus came to die for us, not just for some of us, and for ALL sins, no matter the size. Don’t ever think you are too far gone. However lost you feel, He is the good father. He calls you quietly; He waits patiently, aching to hold you, maybe for the first time. He wants you, because He made you to love Him.
Jesus said in Luke 15:4-7
My story of being a prodigal is not wasted. If you trust in Jesus, yours won’t be either.