Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Amazing Grace: Part two

I feel the need to reiterate something. My "legalistic" views were something I put entirely upon myself. I would probably even go so far as to say that satan used my insecurities and fed off of them. I grew up with very loving parents and a loving church family that extended lots of grace. My views developed mostly because I was such a perfectionist...which in turn, led me to "perform" and constantly feel the need to polish my sinful nature up before God. And don't let me confuse you by thinking that it was simply part of the sanctification process. It was not. It was me, an insecure girl, who never felt secure in her salvation because she never fully understood grace.

I am going to back track a little. It is so hard for me to explain this whole process without sounding completely crazy. I was the girl who became a believer at the age of 8 or 9, yet anytime there would be a prayer to receive salvation, I would find myself saying "the prayer" again "just in case." Through my teen years, I felt insecure because I didn't understand why I still had desires to sin or for worldly behavior if I was saved. The truly odd thing was that I was not particularly judgemental of others...only of myself. I didn't look at my friends sinning and think "hey, you shouldn't be doing that if you are saved." Only me and only to myself. 

I lived in fear that if I died, I was going to go to hell because I still had "so much sin to get rid of". Gosh, I wish I could go back in time and give my teen (and adult) self a huge hug and say "you are God's beloved. He adores you." I can even remember in high school waking up some mornings and saying "ok. today I will go the whole day without sinning! I can do it!!" But, of course, I never could. I was so self righteous, but I never saw that. I was too busy trying to be perfect that I forgot all about the grace which I had been taught. I was so completely bound by perfectionism.

Of course, then you add on the fact that usually as a teen is when you start to become aware that people have many different beliefs. So, with that, I of course questioned Christianity altogether. And since I had doubts, I had even more questions about my salvation. Surely someone who was saved wouldn't have doubts? I needed to get more faith. I had to try and be "more perfect." I was always looking inward.

Fast forward a little and off to college I went. Luckily, this proved to be a huge turning point for me, yet I still had a hard time feeling like I was in the grip of grace. I became actively involved with a Christian Campus Ministry that introduced me to REAL people who really loved Jesus. They were very open about their sins, yet they shined and loved Jesus so much. I am so grateful for those college years.  Our campus minister used to have a saying of "I'm an SOB, but Jesus loves me." I always loved that because it is so true. I definitely started to get a taste of what grace was really all about. I had met these awesome Christian people and I wanted the joy that they had in Jesus. So, I put others on pedestals and kept working on myself once again. It's a vicious cycle. You see, I thought becoming holy meant becoming perfect. Surely I must have some underlying sin that is keeping me from finding joy in God?! That's it. I will figure out what this sin is that is keeping me from experiencing the joy in Jesus that others have.

And so that is what I did for the next 5 years. The details in this time aren't really worth sharing. I pretty much spent 5 more years flip flopping in and out of church. If I was in church, I must be right with God. When I wasn't at church, I must not really love God. Therefore, I might not really be saved. I did this to myself over and over and over again. I started to resent the fact that I felt like "I HAD TO BE in church" for God to be pleased with me. I never had assurance. I never had assurance because I had convinced myself if I was truly saved, I would desire God more, I would not have desires to sin, and that surely I would be "holier" by now. I mean, I had been a Christian for almost 20 years at this point and still couldn't for the life of me figure out why I still had so little faith. Why did I still have moments of doubts? Why was I some days praising His name and other days just really wanting to "do my own thing".

Alright, so back to where I left off with the last post:

 So, where was I? Oh yes, July 2007. For sure, a low point in my life. So, I desperately wanted a baby. I had already been married for 5 years. At this point, I had already been seeing a specialist for 6 months and still no baby. I hated myself, I hated who I thought God was ( a rule setter whom if you didn't have enough faith, you wouldn't receive His blessings).

Let me tell you something. Nothing will require you to surrender your controlling nature more than being infertile. Besides when you die, it is one of the few things you literally have no control over.

Even though my heart was full of anger, I never stopped praying and hoping. If you do the math, you will realize that it was the following month that I got pregnant with Ella.

But you want to hear the truly sad part? Although I praised God every second of the day for blessing me with this child, I convinced myself that I "had gone over God's head" by using fertility medicine. I believed the lies satan whispered in my ears that "this wasn't an act of God", but me being disobedient and not trusting God to fulfill this the au natural way.

Complete lies. I was still so, so, incredibly grateful, but I found myself questioning His sovereignty in it all.God had given one of the greatest blessings in the I had prayed for so long...and I still felt undeserving. I felt like I had not had enough faith.

In May 2008, I gave birth to the most perfect baby girl. And motherhood was really hard. Harder than I had ever imagined. And then I started to think "see, God never wanted you to have a baby because you can't hardly even handle it. You are so selfish." Let me tell you, nothing will show you all your sin like becoming a mother. And for someone who was still trying so hard to feel like God loved her, that exposing of sin sent me into another cycle of feeling like I would never be able to be enough for Jesus. I just had too much sin.

And, so I worked even harder. I was desperate to feel like Jesus loved me. I needed His approval. And if I worked hard,  Jesus would show me how much he loves me and fill me with complete joy once and for all!

(To be continued)


Hillary said...

I'm loving your message today and can't wait to read more!

I felt very similar feelings after loosing Caroline. I constantly told myself "You must not have been a good enough mother." or "God must have known that you wouldn't be able to handle it." After she passed I tried harder than ever to prove to him that I was THE PERFECT wife and mother. I would have the cleanest house, the most wonderful meals etc.
I realized only after having Griffin that God was never judging me or weighing the goodness of my acts against everyone else. Everything that had happened to me and my family was just all part of his plan and it wasn't for me to know why until I get to Heaven!

Lots of love to you today! xoxox

Tabitha said...

Oh Sarah...I love you. I needed this post, and I'm so excited to hear the rest. I feel like I have a very simular attitude, and I often find myslef (still, to this day!) questioning my salvation at times. Is it really that easy? If I were truely saved, why would I feel this way? Why would I say these things? Why would I do that?! God's grace is so simple, so generous...yet we are sometimes unable to accept it...a trap I fall into often.
Thank you.

rachel smith said...

I needed this post more than anything. I am struggling with these problems now, and can't find an end in sight. Between work stress, and a medically sick child, Satan doesn't whisper in your ear he yells. Thank you for this post.

Jennifer Blair said...

This is so beautiful! I really struggled with legalism in my walk with the Lord for a long time. I've felt so many of the same things you did. I'm so thankful you are sharing your story. I know there are many people that are going through the same htings.

Confessions said...

thank you for being such a constant source of encouragement for me and my family. and thank you for your prayers. :)