A lot happened in those years. Alcoholism. Making poor choices with all the wrong boys. Keeping bad company that encouraged me to keep walking away from the Lord. Getting fired due to the effect alcohol had on my life. Lying to family, friends and people I barely knew to cover up things I wasn't proud of. Building walls so high that I couldn't see the sun anymore. Shutting out people that cared the most for me. Doing those things that I told myself I would never do, Christian or not.
And then, came redemption in the form of a coworker.
Kicking and screaming is how God dragged me back to Him. Kicking and screaming and clawing and stomping and cussing and denying and lying and sinning. That is the hot mess that I was.
But He loved me. Oh, how He still loved me.
That is the part that is crazy. How can someone love you when you spit in their face? How can someone forgive you when you tell everyone you know that you are deliberately choosing not to live your life for Him anymore? How can someone plead with you to return to them after you keep abusing them? Isn't it sick? But it's not. That right there is the grace and mercy and love that God lavishes on us. It is just waiting for us. And He wants us to experience not just a little, but the fullness of His grace.
He is amazing.
So, what then? How am I supposed to face God after doing all those things to spite Him? How am I supposed to walk back into His will after being so far from it for so long? How am I supposed to face all those people that I turned my back on when I turned my back on God?
Well, you just do it. You walk in His grace. You humble yourself and stand before people you've hurt and apologize and ask for forgiveness and if it's possible, tell them about the journey back to God so that you can give Him all the glory.
In my story, part of the shame that I carried around was that I had nothing to show for all my choices. I had no marriage, no career, broken relationships, bad credit, and a whole lot of healing to walk through. I felt so empty-handed, limping back to Lynchburg, VA to go as He said, "back to where we left off." (For that story, review this blog post.)
Last night, God showed me something else. He shows me that I did not come back to Him empty handed. He told me to look down and see that my hands are filled with His grace, His mercy and His love.
The truth is that God uses the mistakes we've made and the sin we've committed for His good. He says that in Romans 8:28-30:
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified."
God knew all along. He knew that I would do the things I did. He knew that I would choose what I chose. And yet... in spite of all of that, He had waiting for me a grace that is so huge that it is literally spilling off the sides of my cupped hands. He was ready to downpour His unfailing love on me. He was patiently beckoning me back to His presence.
I am anything but empty-handed.