The story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) has always been one of my favorites. And really - it ends up being my testimony. I have been afraid to share my story, to tell the truth and to own up to my past. When I think of the past I struggle greatly with guilt, shame and embarrassment.
But there is a reason I want to share my story - I want everyone to know that no matter what - God is there for you. He will welcome you back to the fold with open arms.
I believed in God early on in life. In 3rd grade I was invited to AWANA at a local church in Park Rapids, MN. I went and immediately fell in love with God. I love the bible verses, the fellowship and the new world that being a Christian gave me. I was highly active in church - weekly AWANA, church plays, youth group and so on. It was an excepting group and I loved the hope that faith in Jesus provided.
We moved to Verndale and I continued youth group and helped my mother start AWANA at our local church. We had bible study and prayer at school. It was easy to be part of the fold and to stay away from temptations that arose in high school. My best friend was a faith believer and we stood together.
Then I moved away to college and my relationship with God began to crumble - little by little. Instead of getting involved in a group dedicated to God - I tried to find my own path. I stopped going to church weekly, didn't find a bible study group or read my bible daily. In essence, I thought my relationship with the Lord. I still believed, but we were not tight.
I drank in college, went to parties and did things I am not proud of. After college I moved away from all my friends and family - and once again, did not immediately find a church and a strong faithful group of friends in Fargo. I tried again to make it on my own - and wound up making mistake after mistake. I had a whole in my heart from my lacking relationship with God. I wanted so badly to be loved - I felt like I should have a boyfriend and be engaged at this point.I felt unlovable and went about seeking love - trying to fill the God-shaped hole in my life.
On a side note, I never stopped believing there was a God. But really - the only time I ever prayed was when something was wrong. God was a spare tire in my life - not a driving force. I lacked a relationship with him - and did not trust in His will for my life and was not growing spiritual fruit.
Seeking to fill the emptiness inside me and trying to find love, in all the wrong places, ended up
in sacrificing my morals and things that I held dear for so long. I felt even more empty, dirty and useless. Now I was a Christian, with a dirty, tattered witness. How could I possibly tell someone else about the love of Christ when I did not follow His path for me. When I was a sinner - so dirty that I felt like I had hit the bottom of the barrel. I drug many down with my in my sinning spiral - that is the worst part of my guilt. I cannot possibly gain forgiveness from everyone that I have heard on my "prodigal son" past - and, honestly, I am too afraid to ask. It is so humbling - and so hard to do. The worst part is knowing that I knew better. It feels like my sin so so much worse because I have been a Christian my entire life. Others with testimonies full of guilt, but who found Jesus after their sin, see almost like heroes.
God has been working in my life. I came crawling back to Him, tears streaming down my face, broken, dirty and humble. It has been a while since my downward spiral began - and there have been times when I have once again taken steps off the path God has laid out for me. But, over and over, God has brought verses, prayers, sermons and people into my life to help me listen. To hear and see that God's forgiveness is really as far as the east is to the west. God is working in my life. I am working every day to get closer and closer to him - guilt still rears its sneaky head, but the Fruit of the Spirit are growing in my life. Faith is increasing and a thirst for Christ grows every day in my life.
Joel 2:12-13 "Even now," declares the Lord, "return to me with all your hear, with fasting and weeping and mourning." Rend your heart, not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate.