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He Makes Beautiful Things

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I grew up in a Christian home. All my life I lived a “good” life. I was baptized when I was six and participated in about every church function I could. I was a nice girl at school, read the Bible occasionally, studied hard, stayed sexually pure, never cussed and never drank. I prided myself on these things.  

Yet, even though I was proud of the “clean” life I lived, I knew my relationship with God was incomplete. I felt like a relationship with God was more of a chore than anything I really desired. When I saw other people have that strong desire, it seemed like there was a critical piece of the puzzle that I was missing and that everyone else had.

After graduating college, I started attending E91 and a life church. One night at life church, God removed the scales from my eyes so I could see. He revealed to me that His real purpose for my life was to glorify Him. It was so obvious that I wondered how I had been missing it all of this time. But in the months to come, it was clear that God knew exactly when He was ready to make me His own. 

Unbeknownst to me, the expense of fully following Christ was going to cost me more than I ever expected. It is hard to realize your need for a Savior when you think that living a good life and following the rules are enough to appease God and get you into Heaven. But this was exactly why I didn’t know Christ. I was a modern day Pharisee. I didn’t need a personal relationship with Jesus because I thought that a relationship with God was just following the rules to the best of your ability. I didn’t know that even on my best day my actions were still dirty rags when brought to God. I needed the blood of Jesus to save me from my worst days and my best days so I could stand blameless before the Lord. Only His blood would do that – not my actions.

God had to do some major work in order for me to understand that I wasn’t good, even after all my years of staying “pure and clean” by the world’s standards. He did this by me losing the one thing that I held in highest regard – my virginity. And He allowed it to happen in the most humbling way possible. I lost my virginity to a guy that I literally met on the street walking to work. I had no interest in this person and knew that I would never be in a relationship with him. However, I let myself start down a slippery slope that I was unable to climb back up. The one thing that I thought would never be part of my story became one of the defining moments.

Fortunately, God was able to remove me from the relationship quickly, but Satan still told me terrible things about myself – that I was a failure, that I was dirty, that I was worthless. But the truth is, compared to Jesus, I was all of those things. Not because of that one thing I had done, but because of the selfish prideful nature of my flesh. I wasn’t at all clean before I lost my virginity and it didn’t make me any dirtier after. I was “pure and clean” because of the blood Christ shed for me on the cross.

God used the situation to teach me that there is absolutely nothing I can do to make Him love me less and absolutely nothing I can do to make him love me more. His love for me is not based on how well I follow the rules. He loves me because I am his daughter. God loves me right now as much as He ever will. He loved me this much when He died on the cross for me 2,000 years ago, and He is going to love me this much until He calls me home.  

We all have something: some sin, some pride, some thing we don’t want to let go of or that has pulled us away from the Lord. If we hold on to it too tightly, God will surely force it out of our grasp in order to have a more intimate relationship with us because that is the most loving thing He can do. When God finally forced this pride out of my hand, I was able to come to His feet as a dirty, broken and helpless sinner and understand my desperate need for the cross.

God used this situation to give me the missing puzzle piece, and I now realize what it means to follow Jesus. It means that I finally realize that I’m a sinner and no act I do is worth anything if done apart from Christ. It means that because of the blood He shed on the cross, my debts have been paid – past, present and future. It means that I understand the magnitude of his love, grace and mercy, and I cannot help but share that with others. It means that my prideful self has died and Christ now lives in me. It means that I now walk with the joy and purpose that only comes from a daily, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. 

He has made the ugliest part of my life into something absolutely beautiful, and I am so grateful for it.

No Matter How Messy

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Growing up, like most teenage girls my world revolved around what others thought of me.  I morphed into whatever group of people I was with or person I was dating. My hobbies were that of the boy I liked, along with the music I listened to and artists I followed. I even failed a course in college, because the guy I liked had lunch at a different time than I did so I regularly skipped my class to be near him.  

After college I was working in a bar in Broadripple. This is where my lack of identity began to make a huge impact on my life.  I was lost in a culture that drinks for every occasion. I was partying all the time, spending every dollar I made out in the bar.  I was lost.  Then life took a nosedive. In a little over a year's time I had tragedy striking at every corner. I was drugged and raped one night when I was out. Then I found one of my dearest friends after he committed suicide. My sister was pregnant with a child that would never live after she was born and both of my grandfathers passed away. I was at an all time low and life was spiralling out of control quickly.

I began searching for hope and a way out of all the pain, guilt and grief I was experiencing.  I grew up going to church. Most of my life church was just something you were supposed to do, not something that made any real difference in my life. Church was about making you feel good. 

I joined the young adult community at E91 in search of people who believed in something more. Even though I was attending church I was still struggling. I was still morphing into whatever group I was with. I was one person at church and another at the bar.  I met my now husband in the young adult life group I was a part of.  I was infatuated from day one. I knew I wanted to be with Zach and sacrificed boundaries and held tight hoping he would stay with me. 

We found out we were pregnant about four months after knowing each other. I struggled with guilt and shame. All of the sudden these two worlds I was living in came crashing together. Telling my parents, our life group and church leadership was terrifying but at every turn I was experiencing grace and love.  I was reminded of how Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery to do harm but God intended it for good. God used their sins to make something beautiful and God was going to do that with this new baby too. 

We decided to get married three months later and trusted that because we both were seeking to live for Christ and were committed to each other, God would grow our marriage and give us the strength we needed to be who He created us to be.

After one of the hardest first years of marriage I could imagine, God taught me something that would change me forever.  I was on the phone with my mother talking about the new confidence I was finding in our marriage and in my relationship with Zach.  I had spent my whole life with a death grip on things and people that I was afraid of losing. Now I was feeling free, I knew that no matter what Zach and I came up against, no matter how hard it got, he wasn’t going to leave.  We were going to walk through it all together.  Then my mom said something that would change my relationship with God forever; “Sara, do you realize that is what God has been calling you to in your relationship with Him your whole life?” It was so simple it was crazy to me. God wants to be in a relationship with me no matter how messy I get, how many times I screw up, He isn’t going to leave.  I don’t have to work to keep Him? The thought changed everything for me.  I could be secure in the relationship I have with God.  The freedom that came with that thought, I was suddenly able to breathe in a new way.  Think about the confidence that comes with knowing the creator of the universe loves me all because I simply put my faith in Him and trust Him.  

Ephesians 2:8 changed my life, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this in not from yourselves, it is the gift from God”. It was no longer about what I was doing, how hard I held on or worked but I just simply needed to place my faith in the Father who loved me and all of my mess.