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Jessica is a 3rd year Psychobiology major aspiring to be a science teacher. She enjoys waking up early in the morning, physical activity that doesn’t require hand-eye coordination, and peanut butter.
If you had the power to create the “perfect environment” to raise the “perfect Christian”- that would be my home. I was raised by loving parents who loved God, a part of a close-knit church with a plethora of community, with a sprinkle of Christian music wherever I went. And if you knew me growing up, I exuded happiness and contentment- I mean, I had no reason not to- family, friends, good grades, health- I had it all.
However, I was simply skillful at hiding all my sins and struggles.
In 5th grade, I had my first sexual encounter in school. I felt terribly alone, and I refused tell anyone: I believed that I would hurt the people around me, and no one would understand anyways. For years, I put the pain in a box in the back of my head- along with bitterness, hatred, and unforgiveness. If I acted like it never happened, it would be as if it didn’t happen.
This was my approach with my struggle with sin as well. My sins very much felt like taboos. I loathed how people in high school and church thought I was “perfect,” because it just confirmed my belief that I was going to carry these secrets with me to my deathbed. At the end of the day, I vowed that I would try harder, motivated by the guilt and shame I clung so tightly to.
Don’t get me wrong, I never doubted God’s love for me- but that’s where my understanding of His love stopped. I had a low view of the Gospel- I believed that it was a story simply for new Christians, and I didn’t see its relevance in my everyday life. Heck, I couldn’t articulate the Gospel if someone asked me.
This is how I entered college- unaware of my need to repent of my sin, and filled to the brim with secrets. One day after class during my sophomore year, my friend handed me a post-it note with Bible verses she was trying to memorize- which happened to be Ephesians 2. The last time I looked at Ephesians was when Chris Gee preached on it during my freshman year, but I didn’t give it much thought since. I remember returning to my dorm- reading and rereading those words- and starting to cry.
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, […] Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. […] But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved”
I was taken back. It hit me that my sin was not simply something I did occasionally- my sin was a disease. And in these moments I realized that God exposes our ugly to heal. He interrupted my downward spiral with sin and made me alive– alive in Him. Yeah, I have all this bitterness and ugliness inside, but He forgave me on that cross. He still chose to love me and adopted me into His kingdom.
The joy and relief knowing this truth is indescribable. After 8 years, I took the first steps to trying to forgive my rapist in my heart. And I would be lying if I said that my fight with sin is over– the temptations are still there and alive. But I’m fighting. Not motivated by my guilt, but because I know that Jesus is so much better. I know that His thoughts are higher than my thoughts, and His ways are higher than my ways. I know that I no longer need to rely on my own strength or live as the world lives because I am a new creation in Him. By the Gospel and because of the Gospel, I live for Him, knowing that I’ve been forgiven.
With a clearer understanding of the Gospel came a clearer understanding of what He purposed for me. The Gospel doesn’t end with “Jesus loves me,” but that He loves me so that I may make Him known in all the nations. There is an urgency that I didn’t understand before to make disciples and to share the Gospel. I know that I enjoy His grace in order to extend His glory.
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