“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”
My family has been through “the fire” a lot in thirteen years. We’ve been thrown out, abused, abandoned, and pushed to our breaking point, but never at our own hand. Outside forces have always been to blame, and I never expected that one ofus would be capable of bringing down the ship, least of all me.
Two years ago, we left the first place I’d ever felt was home in 10 years of marriage and moved to a new city where I knew absolutely no one.
I was devastated to say goodbye to friendships and to uproot our family yet again; I was lonely and weak. If there is anything that is true, it’s that those two words, “lonely” and “weak” are like an alert siren for the enemy’s attack. Temptation entered my life in a way I never dreamed was possible, the good little Jesus-loving, worship-leading, story-telling girl from Canada.
It came in the form of a Facebook conversation with a man who was not my husband.I convinced myself for a long time that I was in control of it and I let it linger. I let it toy with me, and I even reached out for it a little because it had the façade of comfort, value, and escape.
You know how they say women are most beautiful in candlelight? It’s because the shadows hide the flaws in our skin, the wrinkles around our eyes. The same is true for temptation: darkness blinds us to its warts and scales.
The proverbial lights were turned on and I looked at what temptation was doing to me, I realized that I was very much out of control. I was so disgusted with myself and what I had allowed to come into my life that I physically could not eat and lost fifteen pounds. I also couldn’t relax enough to sleep for months. I fought with all I had against it, but I was so weak and depleted that when the lights would dim, temptation’s appearance suddenly became enticing again. I would admit that I was just too weak and lonely to do the hard thing and turn the lights back on and I’d fall right back into the temptation that was destroying me.
I danced with temptation in the darkness and in the fleeting moments of daylight, I saw my own warts and scales for what they really were. Soon, not even the light was enough to keep me away. I chose to ignore the ugliness that had become me. As much as I wanted to be free of it, the attention from this man fed my starving, wounded soul. And while I never wanted anything beyond that attention, I didn’t want it to stop.
When all of the fight had left me and I was at the end of myself, the Lord swooped in and rescued me. It took a long time for me to see the events that surrounded that as a rescue rather than an epic failure on my part. It involved coming clean to the person I had failed the most, my husband.
I need to say that this situation didn’t occur because of a lack in my marriage. Our lives had been turned upside down by the move and our whole family was trying to find a new normal. The bottom line as to why this happened was because of a gaping hole in my heart that had been festering since I was a kid.
With a bravery not my own, and the support of some very important people in my life, I sat down and confessed the whole thing to my husband. It still nauseates me to think about that night and all of the ways it could have played out.
But my husband is one of the best men on the planet, and with three words he completely broke me.
“I forgive you.”
Honestly, this was appalling to me. I wanted to be punished, reprimanded and cast out. I wanted to be lashed for my sins. The shame of what I had done was like a thick, heavy blanket and I wanted it to suffocate me because I felt like that is what I deserved. I did not deserve such grace and love, yet everywhere I turned, that was what I received.
One night, as my husband and I were still processing, I was aching for the justice I was due. I remember saying, “I don’t want Jesus around this. I don’t want to bring this to Him, He shouldn’t be in the same room as this filth.”
My husband looked at me with concerned eyes and said, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”
I sat in the corner of the couch and sobbed.
The Lord often uses images to speak to me, and during the months of turmoil that I went through as I worked to pull myself out of this filthy pit, He showed me an image of myself kneeling at the foot of the cross, surrounded by poop. Poetic, right? I thought to myself, “There is a lot of crap at the cross, and here I am just sitting in it. I do not want to be here anymore.” I knew, as soon as the thought crossed my mind, that it was in complete opposition to the way the cross is to be viewed, but for the life of me, I couldn’t get past it.
That’s exactly how the enemy wants us to feel about our sin. Gross. Guilty. Shameful. It took a few days before the truth began to worm it’s way into that image.
The enemy wanted me to believe that the cross was simply a dumping ground, and it wasn’t just my crap there, but everyone else’s too. If I stayed there long enough, I would have seen every single thing I’d ever brought to the cross, and my guilt and shame would have grown to the point of utter despair and would have isolated me, which is exactly what the devil wants. But the truth is that Jesus’ death on the cross was for the freedom from sin. Sin no longer has power over us. Sin no longer isolates us from the Father. When we bring our sin to the cross, Jesus’ blood washes it away. Washes the residue off our fingers, the stench off of our bodies, and then It. Is. Gone.
We know that it is only by the cross that we enter into the Lord’s presence — had it not been for Jesus’ sacrifice and the tearing of the temple curtain, we would still be going through copious motions just to be able to send someone else into the Holy of Holies in our place.
When I said those words, “I don’t want Jesus to be around this,” I was thinking that I was bringing my “crap” into the Holy of Holies with me, but the Lord helped me to see, in a very practical way, that when we come to the cross, we dump our sins and He washes them away, cleansing us from the inside out and giving us complete access to His presence. My sin wasn’t coming in with me, and it sure as heck wasn’t waiting for me when I came out, either.
This is Sunday School 101, but for some reason, I needed a real-life application. I wouldn’t wish the agony I went through on anyone; it was the worst time of my life. Shame came at me hard, along with a plethora of other ugly lies, and it almost ruined me. It almost brought life as I knew it to a crumbling halt, but as is His promise, the Lord redeemed it and used my mistakes for His glory. I understand grace and forgiveness in such a new and beautiful way. I got an even deeper glimpse into the gift that I have in my husband, and I learned that it is the Father’s joy to rescue us when we can’t rescue ourselves, and now He has released me to share this story and be a vessel to bring hope and healing to anyone who will listen.
I hope and pray that wherever you are at in life, that the Father’s grace and forgiveness shines a light on any shame you might be experiencing, and that you are able to join me at the foot of the cross and allow His love to break through all of the crap you may be sitting in. Leave it behind and walk into His presence, clean, free and loved.
Julie Presley (www.juliepresley.com), co-founder of Dauntless Grace Ministries, is an author, worship leader and lives in the greater Austin area with her husband Rocky and two boys, Salem and Josiah. Other loves include Netflix originals, red red wine and Cadbury Mini-Eggs.
From Dauntless Grace Ministries’ “About” page.