I’ve been writing a book for young women called Girls with Gusto. It’s about our mission as Christians and the eight major steps we take on our spiritual journey.
With each chapter, God has been working on me, pulling me closer to Him. It’s a wonderful reminder that I serve a living God who is interested in my well-being and desires an intimate relationship with me. But that kind of growth often brings growing pains.
A Clean Heart
Step One in the Christian journey is A Clean Heart. In this step, we learn that we’re sinners in need of saving. We discover God and accept His mercy and the sacrifice of Jesus. Then, God’s Spirit comes into our heart and cleans it out, making us new.
Eventually, we mess up. Like the prodigal son, we seek after the flashy, sexy things of this world, and we lose touch with the deep and meaningful ways of God (see Luke 15). If we’re to hold onto our faith, we have to come back to God and seek forgiveness. Then, He goes to work cleaning out our hearts again.
That’s the raw truth, a summation of Scripture. My own experience is harder to tell.
I always believed in God, even as a small child. I never had a true conversion experience, other than my baptism at age 13. I remember the feeling of a clean heart, white as snow.
At some point in my teens, I started going off-trail, detouring from the path God had outlined for me. When my grandmother passed away when I was 21, I didn’t know how to handle it. I was overcome with grief and depression for years, and I didn’t know how to rely on God. Instead, I got married so I would have someone to lean on. Of course, that didn’t work out, and I found myself divorced at 24 years old.
Robby and I have been married for five years. I now have the love, friendship, and security I searched for as a young woman. And I know that God is the one who provides us with all things—whether directly or through other people. I thank Him every day for what He’s given me.
Because of that, I tend to forget about my past and just focus on the present and look forward to the future. It sounds healthy, but it’s not always helpful. When I was writing about Step One, A Clean Heart, God showed me that He can use my past for His glory. It can be an important part of my testimony, and I shouldn’t deny it or shy away from it.
So, I rewrote that first section. I still included the meat of Scripture but, this time, I told it from experience. I trust this honesty and transparency will resonate with readers; that it will show them what faith looks like in real life.
Here’s an excerpt from my manuscript:
Because of this situation, I know a few things I wouldn’t know otherwise. For example, I can tell you that the loneliest place on earth is inside a broken marriage. The hardest thing to hear is “I don’t love you,” even when you realize you really don’t love that person, either. And, even in the 21st Century, there is a stigma to divorce that follows you wherever you go, especially church.
At twenty-four, I was the prodigal daughter. I had to humble myself, crawl back to my Father God, and ask for forgiveness. I had to come back here, to Step One, A Clean Heart….
In [Luke 15], we see that the father loves his son because he is compassionate and merciful. In the same way, God loves us because of who He is. It has nothing to do with our own efforts, no matter how domestic or diva they may be. This is great news, because it also means that He loves us even when our efforts fail. Even through grief, mistakes, and divorce.
Our value, then, is not determined by what we do but by the God who values us.
If you’ve tucked away your past mistakes, I want you to know that God still sees them. If you haven’t asked for forgiveness, then do so today. Start your life anew with a Clean Heart before the Lord.
If you’ve already received forgiveness, then there’s no need to hide what has been forgiven. Let the Lord show you how and when to share your story so that it can bless others and bring Him glory.
I’ll be honest with you: it’s not easy to share something painful. But I can assure you that it’s worth it, to live free of the past and to encourage others to do the same.