Sitting in an auditorium one fall day in 2007, my eyes were riveted on the speaker. I couldn’t believe he was describing my life to a tee. I knew without a doubt that he was speaking directly to me. You know that unmistakable voice that makes you feel like your heart might explode out of your chest? It was “the voice” that I had shut off so long ago. But this time, God was speaking and I was ready to listen.
I was a sophomore in college and had been dating my high school boyfriend for four years. I was the quintessential “Southern Christian Girl” who knew all the right cliché Bible answers, but was concealing a secret life of sin. The tug-of-war that was raging in my heart was due to my sinful choices. I was living in a way that did not please God and my spirit was in turmoil. Consequently, I did not experience the peace, joy, love or life that results from knowing Jesus. The prevailing sin in my life quenched all of those blessings.
That is, until the day that I woke up.
The speaker described the emptiness of a life where Jesus is not on the throne of a person’s heart. There was no doubt that he was describing my relationship with my boyfriend. It was clear that this relationship was an idol and on the throne of my heart. Although this idol looked nothing like ones I remembered reading about in Sunday school. It was not made out of gold, but was very much the center of my existence and I was making big sacrifices for it. My idol was a guy… my boyfriend…and this idol robbed me of true peace, joy and love. This relationship was a counterfeit. I may have felt all the giddy emotions of young love but what it was actually doing to my heart and soul was destructive. However, up until that point, I was blinded to my own idolatry and how entangled I was in the lies.
In Marian’s recent podcast, Wrecking Ball—Demolishing Relational Idolatry, she shared a powerful truth, “The Bible is our prescription for health.” If we take a daily dosage of God’s Word and apply it, then we can enjoy the abundant life that Jesus described in John 10:10. The opposite is true too. Our lives will never overflow with abundance if we willingly walk in sin and ignore His commandments. At that point, I desperately needed to apply God’s prescription in order to find healing and restoration.
The big question is this: How did I, a Christian girl, get to the place that I struggled with relational idolatry and was entangled in sin? What were the stepping-stones that led me down a path of rebellion?
As Believers, we have a relationship with God through faith and we are His children, but we are still susceptible to temptation and can easily be lured away from God through the deceitfulness of sin. For this reason we must be careful to not put ourselves in places where our hearts will be lured away. These stepping-stones are illustrated in a story found in the Old Testament.
The story that illustrates this path of deception is about Lot, Abraham’s nephew. Lot is a man of faith who has been blessed with an incredible spiritual inheritance; yet, he makes the foolish choice to center his life on godless living. Essentially, the world of sin (Sodom) appeared fun and attractive to him and as a result, he makes the costly decision to take up residence in a place notorious for wickedness.
Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.
Lot chose to live in Sodom—a place where the people were sinning against the Lord and without regard for righteous living. He was enticed by worldly living and temptation took him down a path of wickedness. He is ultimately taken captive and his family faces devastating consequences. I’m sure when he first “pitched his tent” he had no idea where that choice would ultimately lead him.
I, too, was a lot like Lot.
Although our story was innocent at first, my boyfriend soon became more attractive to me than Jesus. I remember our first date in high school. We went to the movies with a group of friends, enjoyed dinner and drove through a drive-thru for a milkshake on the ride home. Sounds like a Nicholas Sparks movie, right?
Our first date ended with a good night kiss at my front door. Honestly, at the time I didn’t think it was a big deal, I just saw it as a fun way to break-the-ice, but sadly it was a physical catalyst that later took us down a lifestyle of sin and regret. While the kiss itself was not sin, what our relationship became surely was. Although we were both Christians, we didn’t set boundaries for purity. Like Lot, we lived in a world that normalized sin and began to rationalize our choices by thinking “we’re getting married someday” or “it’s not that big of a deal!” We tried to find every loophole to justify our actions and didn’t see how easily we were deceived by the lies.
I was not prepared for the progression of temptation and sin that comes with a physical relationship and was soon entangled in it and didn’t know how to break free. Our relationship included all the benefits of “a marriage” without the ring or the covenant. All of which led me to a gut-wrenching breakup four years later that honestly felt more like a divorce.
Back to the day my life changed.
Sitting in that auditorium, I knew I needed to turn from sin and turn back to Jesus. The conviction was heavy upon me and Jesus was speaking to my heart that He had better for me. Marian teaches all the time “repentance means change.” Sure, I had conviction of my sin but true repentance meant that I had to turn away from the sin and start walking in purity again.
Although my sin was great, God’s grace is greater. Jesus loved me and poured out mercy on my life. His grace enabled me to change. Let me be honest, change was not easy. I cried buckets of tears. Tears over my sin but also tears over a break-up, which I knew, had to happen because it was God’s best for me. As I told a friend of mine recently, “It was the hardest decision, but the best decision of my life.” That year was when I truly developed a relationship with God that went beyond Sunday school and godly parents. A relationship with God that was my own. Jesus used my brokenness to draw me closer to Him.
If I could sit down with any woman experiencing the same struggle I’ve described, I would tell her to flee! Choose today to run fast and hard away from sin and towards Jesus. To turn and run is not easy, but it is so worth it. I promise that He will empower you to take every step that you need to take.
Friends, Jesus is better and He has healed my heart and made me whole and He can do the same for you!
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10 NIV
For more on this topic, check out Sex and the Single Christian Girl by Marian Jordan Ellis.
Rebecca Harper, Director of Discipleship & Marketing