Despite learning about Jesus from a very young age, I was a sneaky, arrogant child who did not obey my Heavenly Father (or my earthly one). As a teen, I lived a cycle of underage drinking and sexual sin, followed by regret for those sins, followed again by giving in to those temptations because I had not fully closed the door on them. I was pregnant by age 18. With those permanent consequences, God finally had my attention.
Shortly after my son was born, my mother introduced me to a small group of believers in our Midwestern area. We all gathered twice a week to enjoy fellowship and study God’s Word. I was learning to be accountable and hearing God’s Truth about Who I am in Christ—that I am a vessel containing either Christ (as a believer) or Satan (as an unbeliever); there is no independent me.
Through that Minnesota Bible study, I met friends in the North Carolina ministry; and a few years later, my son and I moved to North Carolina, followed by my mother.
There, through God’s grace and through His people, I was parented and I was taught to parent. I was maturing in faith and became a trusted youth leader, employee, confidant, and friend. My fatherless son was surrounded by Christian role models and friends; he experienced far beyond what most children born to unwed teen moms experience.
But daily life still felt hard (even though much of the hardness was from consequences of sin). Walking by faith did not feel easy—nor did accountability or trusting God to give me His highest and best in every circumstance. At 34 years old, I had not been on a date since becoming a mom. My mother and I shared a home; I feared that would be our living arrangement into old age. My son bore the scars of having been born to a young, rebellious, unequipped single mother; I feared what further embarrassment and humiliation his teen years would bring. I felt tired and bitter and guarded. I felt ashamed of myself and simultaneously envious of others. I saw my friends being obedient to God and sacrificing in various ways, and I feared what God would require of me. I wanted to escape responsibility, accountability, discomfort, and exposure.
Although I was well-versed in the truth that I am a vessel containing either Christ or Satan, I still fell for Satan’s enticing lie of the I—that there is somehow a just me who can live in some neutral space apart from God’s perfect will. There was Christ, there was Satan, and there was some me in the middle who could kind of, sort of, steer the ship.
By believing there was an independent me in any capacity, I’d given Satan control. I’d refused to speak truth against the lies. With Satan doing my seeing, my thoughts grew darker. I no longer saw my friends as Christ-operated vessels who wanted God’s best for me. Rather than fearing where Satan would take me, I feared the reactions of others. I wanted to permanently hide. My main focus became to find relief. Somewhere there had to be an easier, simpler way.
I quit attending Bible study.
Then, like a dog returning to vomit (Proverbs 26:11), in summer 2005—ten years after we’d moved to North Carolina—I quit my job and dragged my 14-year-old son halfway across the country to my childhood hometown.
I was banking on a made-up neutral spiritual place where—while I might be some sort of milquetoast Christian—I certainly wouldn’t become allied against my friends or return to my previous sins of drinking and promiscuity. I didn’t intend to cause that much hurt and destruction. I just wanted to move on, leave the past in the past and maintain some degree of a godly standard, hopefully with a husband and children.
This, of course, is impossible. As Christian believers, we are either clear vessels of Jesus Christ, or we are in the sin of unbelief and thus temporarily enslaved to Satan until we confess our sins. There’s no just me to tell my temporary slave-master what he can and cannot do.
Satan had the reins and quickly took me to all the places I’d previously sworn I wouldn’t go. I did the things I swore I would never do. I hurt people in ways that I cannot take back. Rather than repent then and there, I made excuse after excuse. I continued to run from the light because my deeds were evil (John 3:19-20).
Appealing to both pride and shame, Satan’s lie remained: Now you can NEVER go back. You can never face anyone with who you’ve become. I would feel agony over my secrets and how I’d led my son down a path of destruction that I had never intended. Instead of bowing my knee, I carried on in years of self-loathing and pretending my ever-evolving consequences were not as bad as they were. But I knew I was living on a lot of grace and feared what consequence would happen next. My continued sin was ever unfolding before me.
Yet I didn’t confess and repent the whole of it.
I did know I had a sin problem. James 5:16 haunted me. So, I confidentially confessed my biggest sin secret to a counselor in hopes I could leave it all behind me and carry on. That only brought momentary relief.
By the way, I did get a husband and more children: I married an unbeliever, and we care for our two grandchildren born out of wedlock. We experienced happy times; but inwardly, peace eluded me. What would Satan take next? My health was deteriorating and I struggled to think clearly on daily tasks, much less spiritual matters.
I tried to move on and say I was a vessel of Christ, but I knew too much. I know God’s word commands that I confess my sin. I couldn’t live with any confidence or authority that Christ was operating through me if there was a sin block.
I longed to see my husband submit his will and life to Christ as his Savior, yet I knew I had no right to ask that of God after my years of defiant sin and choosing to be unequally yoked in spite of knowing better. My now-adult son was living enchained by the consequences of both my sin and his own.
God is the Hound of Heaven, always pursuing us. In His mercy, as sin hardened my heart and blinded my eyes and fogged up my brain, God’s Truth remained inescapable. I desired to be right with God, yet, I still didn’t surrender all. I feared what God would ask of me. I was such a disobedient fool for Satan that I still couldn’t see how he’d robbed me of EVERYTHING. In truth, what could I possibly hold onto that Satan hadn’t already stolen? Nothing is mine to lose.
Finally, in the summer of 2017—12 years after I’d moved away—I let down my defenses. I am wrong; 100% wrong. No excuses. Not a single defense. No gray area. No neutral place. God knows it, and I know it. My friends have been 100% innocent. What excuse could I possibly make for not confessing my sin and asking their forgiveness?
There was no skirting it. Just as Joseph’s brothers knew they were truly guilty about their brother, I knew I had to go back to the point where I left—to the body of believers I’d hurt—confess my sin and make things right. I feared the outcome, but I knew what I had to do. It did not matter what God might ask me to do or give up or change. His Way is the ONLY right way. EVERYTHING else is a lie.
That was my first point of surrender. But I still acted on fear. Instead of getting on the phone and doing the hard thing, I made a list of people from whom I needed to ask forgiveness. I planned to write letters to each of them and mail them all at once. And then I agonized over those letters.
Around that time, on the phone with my mother, I confessed my sin to her and asked for her forgiveness. She still lived near and fellowshipped with our friends. In our next conversation, on a Tuesday, my mother asked if I intended to confess and ask forgiveness from any of them. I told her that I did; she recommended that I simply call people one at a time. I agreed and, even though I felt fearful about talking with people I’d sinned against, I was grateful for my mother’s guidance.
Recalling David’s words in Psalm 51:4, I asked God to forgive me.
Then came my test. The next day my mother suggested I just call our bible study and talk to everyone that night.
“Okay; I’ll do that,” I said.
I did not know what to expect, but I did know my sin hurt people in ways I may never understand. I had been allied against God and against His righteous people for many years. I would ask forgiveness no matter the outcome. I would listen to whatever they had to say. I would take full ownership.
And so I called. It was surreal to hear voices I hadn’t heard in 12 years. They sounded warm and kind and eager to hear from me. They listened quietly as I confessed my sin and asked for their forgiveness. Only a few minutes had gone by when a friend gently stopped me to say: “It was Satan.”
It was Satan! That deceiver had duped me, and I had refused to stop believing his lies for over 12 years! They’d known it all along, but I had to be broken and repentant before the gift of forgiveness could be of any value. God had forgiven me, and His people forgave me. Furthermore, they—the very people I had been allied against, who had every right to be angry with me and cut me off, instead rejoiced and were encouraged by my repentance. Sweet, AMAZING, indescribable grace and mercy!
That phone call lasted only 15 minutes. It was that simple. Following that evening, I called friends one-on-one to ask their forgiveness in more specific detail. Every single person forgave me and welcomed me back like a prodigal son, with the generosity of Joseph toward the same brothers who previously had plotted to kill him.
Meanwhile at home, my husband was witnessing all of this. I had confessed my sin toward him too. He had good reason to cut me off. But he too forgave me. Six days after I called my bible study, my husband prayed to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.
When I finally bowed my knee and confessed my sin, I had no expectation of restored fellowship. Yet the moment I obeyed—repented, confessed, and received forgiveness—that fellowship was immediately restored. I remain in awe of this gift. Like a magnetic pull, I couldn’t wait to see my friends face-to-face. I cannot adequately describe that face-to-face reunion. But I do believe I know how Joseph’s brothers felt when he forgave them and welcomed them back. That is total forgiveness and restoration!
What is now more apparent to me than ever is that, while I certainly deserve condemnation, God’s plan is for me to be a clean vessel for His Spirit so that His mighty power can be expressed immediately and boldly for His purpose: to save the world.
Onward! I have lived many years as a fool for Satan; now I am a fool for Christ. (1 Corinthians 4:10).