I’ve been a critic of Christian systems since I left my old church. Religious systems can be used to control us and alienate us from the very place they’re supposed to lead us. Yet God in His love has used the same practices and disciplines that I was familiar with to bring me back to His heart. In the book of the Revelation, Jesus calls His church to go back to first things in an effort to recapture its first love for Him: The Word of God. Prayer. Community. The Eucharist.
The Slow Work of Recapturing Love
When I reckoned that I was in the pigsty, I reached out for community. I called a friend who had been in the pigsty before. She helped pull me out of the pit. I went back to church. I started going to small group again. I recommitted to spending more time alone with God. I dug up my old practices and infused them with a new rhythm of delight.
I felt I was being born again . . . again, and it had nothing to do with my willpower and everything to do with God’s steadfast goodness and unconditional love toward me.
My desire for Jesus grew—slowly at first, and then fast. I remembered that night at camp back when I was sixteen. I blew the dust off old memories with God and started feeling His presence again. I felt joy again. It was a new beginning.
“You might feel like you’re past the point of return. You couldn’t be more wrong.”
I still fight the battle over sinful desires. When sinful desires threaten to take over, I reorient my heart again to Jesus. I make room for the Spirit’s prompting. I pray a whispered prayer: Lord, open my eyes that I may see You, open my ears that I may hear You, open my mouth that I may praise You, and open my heart to receive all You have for me today.
This kind of work takes solitude and silence. This kind of work is slow work. Most of us are not accustomed to any process that takes time, but life in Christ is a journey that unfolds one step at a time.
I’m not oblivious to the challenges that still lie ahead. I know I’ll see a marshmallow one day and look longingly at it. When that happens, I won’t beat myself on the head over it. It will just be a reminder to me that I am made for more.
If you’re stuck in a cycle of sin that has caused you to doubt whether you even know God, you’re not alone. If you’ve resigned yourself to failure, you’re not alone. If you’re stuck in a cycle of sin that has caused you to wonder whether Christianity is true, you’re not alone. A famous pastor recently admitted that his faith was deconstructed because of the sin in his life. Given a choice between victory over sin or a lifetime of sin, he chose sin and discounted his Christianity. His inability to overcome sin reflected his belief that the promise of his sin would bring him greater joy than the promise of the Son. He believed sin’s lie that promises that sin is better than Jesus.
The Draw of God’s Love
Repentance matters. Surrender matters. Even our desires matter, especially when we allow God to shape those desires in His goodness. As Christians we might understand that victory is ours in Christ, and we might even believe it. What needs growth is our ability to live it out in the power of the Holy Spirit. But the thing that draws us out of the pit and into the palace again is God’s love. God’s covenantal, unconditional, steadfast love will never fail us, even when we’re too far away to feel it. You might feel like you’re past the point of return. You couldn’t be more wrong.
Jeremiah 31:2–4 says:
“The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
O virgin Israel!
Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines
and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.”
This is grace—that we are loved though undeserving. That we are offered hope and joy where we deserve punishment and shame. Jesus paid the price; all to Him we owe.
Now receive His love and live.