In-between Grace: Forgiven & Free
When I first gave my life over to Jesus—everything inside of me changed. I cried and sang, “I believe in you Jesus!” with gusto and desperation. I asked the Triune God to tear down all the walls of my sin, pride, and regret that had encased me far too long. If Jesus could really save me from the hell I had put myself through, well then, I promised to love and trust Him all the days of my life.
The regeneration process that ignited instantaneously inside my heart, mind, and soul was baffling. Hope floated inside my chest. Literally, I was lighter on the inside. But the outside reality of my world still looked the same. This is the curious thing about believing in the Gospel of Christ when you have been drunk and numb and exhausted for longer than you can remember … the living water that Jesus offers is almost incomprehensible at first.  A new life in Christ is vivifying, infinite, and audacious. Very different from the well I had been going to and living from all those years.
When you turn to the living God from darkness and death, Jesus doesn’t just resuscitate you … he resurrects, re-orientates, and renews you.
I considered all the life changes that would need to take place after assimilating myself into Christianity, I was both hesitant and scared to take the plunge. At the very least, I knew an inner resistance would occur due to a clash of lifestyles. The worst, I thought, would be finding Jesus too good to be true. Despite my fears, I turned to the Lord and began confessing all the junk and misery that had built up over time. Years of stress, guilt, shame, and worry had manifested itself somewhere between my chest and stomach. Sin grows like mold, poisoning our bodies over time. But I found the old adage that “though my sins were as scarlet, He washed them whiter than snow” to be refreshingly true. Breathing was even different.
Exhale: hate, self-loathing, conceit, suspicion, diffidence, and disgust.
Inhale: pure (uninhibited) joy, peace, trust, newness, awareness, and love.
What a freaking miracle.
First, I surrendered all the crap baggage. Over time, I apologized to God, others, and finally myself. I begged for forgiveness with my face soaked in tears. Sobbing felt like a baptism. The cleansing power of the Holy Spirit washed over me. God was in me. I was in God. Love encased me, redeemed me, and restored me. It was a radical shifting: from sin, misery, and death, to freedom in my new life with Christ. From dark to light. Turns out, all those clichés I used to poke fun at were actually true. I was blind and now I can see! That’s what being born again felt like for me anyway. But that was just the beginning ... it turns out that following Jesus over the long haul is both parts wonderful and painful. Freedom is still revealing itself in places I didn't know existed all those years ago.
For those of us with “messy” pasts that might include affairs, divorces, bankruptcies, drugs, incarcerations, whatever … please know that you are precious in God’s sight. The fact of the matter is that YOU are exactly the kind of person who is accepted and worthy of Christ’s love. Your value as a human being is never placed on what you have done, but in whose Image you are made. God doesn't just want to "save" you ... He longs to renew you, partner with you, equip you, and transform you.
He has a purpose for your life, no matter what you have done. Unfortunately, it has taken me years to understand, believe, and live out of my new identity as God’s beloved child alone. When you're walking with Jesus and shedding old habits, other people’s thoughts, actions, and judgments can derail you quickly. You have to intentionally seep yourself in communal sources of encouragement where people point you to the truth of God’s love and redemption with no other undercurrent than grace, truth, and love. You need people in your corner that shout, "keep going ... I am so proud of you".
Here’s the other part about following Jesus that no one likes to hear or talk about these days: there is always a personal cost that comes. Radical life change requires pruning. We are called to "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles" . You can't expect to believe and surrender your life to Jesus without change. Losses will occur. Narrow road living is intentional, sacrificial, but so life-giving. This is especially true for those of us who have made some colossal mistakes in life. When you determine to follow Jesus after living a life of sin for so long, a culture clash often follows. Scripture tells us that,
“In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work”.
To become someone who flees evil, and pursues righteousness, faith, love, and peace is a radical shifting of priorities. Please know that sanctification and reconciliation is not a pretty process. It will require pluck, tenacity, resolve, and a constant reminder that God works all things for the good of those that love Him. But you must cleanse yourself from the old life, crap-baggage, and cling to the truth that you are made for noble purposes!
It took years to work out some big, messy issues in regard to my past (and thank goodness He is not done) but I can attest to the fact that Jesus loves changing the worst of sinners into a monument of grace. Right-side up living from up-side-down people is God’s wheelhouse. It’s where the magic happens. You, my dear friends, are the Kingdom come aspect that the Heavenly Father runs out to greet ... with tears, love, and a party to welcome you home to a glorious new hope and future. Be welcomed home.
The Jen that lived before is very different than the Jen that walks with Jesus now. I continue to be baffled by the truth that God lives IN me! Granted, I did not, nor do I now fully comprehend and understand the entire power behind this amazing truth. And I still mess up all the time, but thanks be to God that His love and grace sustains and propels me to keep moving forward every-single-day.
Walking with Jesus has become an encasing; slowly morphing the outer context of my world (those day-to-day decisions) to eventually match the Biblical Truth that now resides on the inside of my heart. But this absorption, this metamorphosis, to continually become like Jesus, takes years. And it's supposed to. What a journey we are invited into! Our Father, always beckoning, always inspiring, never pressuring. And the more time I spend with my Savior, the more I realize I love Him and need Him.
Almost a decade later and there are moments I still feel like the scared, bent girl who gave her life over to Jesus on a Monday. But the overwhelming truth is, I am not. I am forgiven in grace and set free in a new identity. I am His beloved daughter, pure in His sight, and useful for His glory in ways that I would have never imagined! May we all be bursting with passion about the work that the Triune God of this world wants to accomplish through those that need Him, believe Him, and follow Him ... not perfectly, but strangely and uniquely. May we all do our best to cast off those things that hold us back and learn to lean closer to the overwhelming love and wonder and never-ending mercies of God that are new every morning.
 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14  Isaiah 1:18.
 Hebrews 12:1.  2 Timothy 2:20-21; italics my own.  2 Timothy 2:22.  Romans 8:28.