In 1995, I was in my thirties, a mother of two, Lon and I were nearing our 10th anniversary…
And I was tempted to have an affair with a man at work.
Me. The good little pastor’s daughter who never did anything wrong.
Me. The college girl who went to Bible School to be a missionary to China.
Me. The young woman who taught her children Bible stories and prayed with them at bed-time.
How did I come to this? I’ll start at the beginning…
I was raised in 70s-era Pentecostal circles where there was a heavy emphasis on being good and obedient all the time to make sure you wouldn’t go to hell if you suddenly got ran over by a bus. This taught me to fear God, but not love Him. So, I made sure I respected my parents. I never got into trouble. I never drank, or used drugs, or smoked, or fooled around with sex (or kissing for that matter). If I thought I had done anything wrong, I went to each member of my family and apologized before I could feel safe going to bed…just in case Jesus came back while I was sleeping.
Along with the fear driving my behavior, there was another motive. Growing up in Pentecostal circles I was constantly taught that if I would give my life unreservedly to God (which usually meant becoming a minister or minister’s wife), God would do great and awesome things with my life. I was taught to believe that if I gave God my best, God would give me His best, and that it would be glorious beyond my imagination.
But both motives–the desire for earthly glory, and a loveless fear of God–are false and led my heart astray. The former taught me to believe a promise God hadn’t made; the latter to disbelieve a promise He had. God hadn’t promised me a life that bounced from one glory cloud to the next. God had promised His best to me in Jesus, knowing I would never deserve it. But I hadn’t learned this yet, and so these two motives taught me to live a self-righteous life, to live in the belief that I could, that I must, earn God’s favor.
By 1995, I was a good Christian wife with a good Christian home raising two good Christian children. So you see, God owed me. God was in my debt.
But the amazing clouds of glory never came, and I was mad at God.
I had given my life to Him, but I was poor and obscure. We were new to Georgia. No one knew us or cared. I was alone and friendless even in the church we attended. Lon wasn’t a minister, so I wasn’t a minister’s wife. I was unhappy with our financial troubles, unhappy in our marriage, unhappy in our crummy little apartment.
I felt cheated.
Nevertheless, I remained a good Christian girl driven by fear and false hope. Perhaps, it just wasn’t God’s time yet? I faithfully continued my habit of daily Bible reading (like a good Christian girl should), when one day I read these words in the story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears in Luke 7:36-50.
Therefore, I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.–Luke 7:47
What Jesus meant is that only people who understand how guilty they are, really understand and express how wonderful it is to be forgiven. As for me, I didn’t think my sins were all that many. Actually, I couldn’t let myself think my sins were that many. But I admired this woman’s love for Jesus; I knew I didn’t love Jesus this way. I remember praying a smug little prayer that I would learn to love Jesus the way this woman did. In my self-righteous heart I thought God would appreciate me praying such a selfless prayer.
But God answered in a way I never expected.
And that’s when I found myself in a mutual, though unspoken, attraction to a nice guy at work. I don’t just mean that I found him attractive; I mean that I found myself greatly tempted to have an affair. “No one will know,” the inner voice said. “No one will care.”
I was shocked! I thought I was beyond this. I thought a temptation like this could never arise in my heart. The Bible says the human heart is deceitfully wicked, but it couldn’t be talking about my heart? Though I hadn’t committed adultery, I staggered to find that I could, that adultery lay hidden in my own heart. What would Jesus think if He knew? I thought I was good?! I had to be good, or…
Jesus would be angry with me? Jesus would reject me? Jesus would throw me out with the trash?
I remembered the woman. She knew her sins were many. She came to Jesus with her many sins. She knew she had much to be forgiven. For the first time in my life, I began to see that my sins were like hers: many. In my mind’s eye, I could see God looking at them there in my heart, and I saw them too: Adultery. Idolatry. Vanity. Self-love. Self-righteousness. Loveless fear. I felt naked and ashamed. I had never felt shame before God before.
I remembered Jesus, how He received her, all gentleness and love and forgiveness. She knew how much He had forgiven her. And for the first time, I knew how much I had been forgiven. I saw that I never had earned His love, could never earn it, but that He had always lavished it freely on me in forgiving grace.
In prayer, He seemed to ask me if this was enough–if his love demonstrated on the cross was enough for me, even if I never received the amazing, glorious life on earth I dreamed of, the life I thought I had earned.
I never had the affair. But, I’m still the woman whose sins are many, who loves her Forgiver.
I still live an average, un-glorious life. Some bits have been better than 1995, some have been worse. I’m happier with my marriage; sadder with my mental health. I’ve been a minister’s wife (with Lon) for a while, and found it wasn’t what I dreamed. I have a large enough home, and am content in it.
I often wonder why my life can be so unexpectedly hard, as, perhaps, you sometimes do, too.
But Christ’s love is great, and even when life isn’t…
His love is enough.
Was this post worth sharing?
We want to encourage your friends, fans and followers to trust our great God, even when life isn’t so great. Use the buttons below to share this post with your friends.
Thank you for sharing Average Us!