I have been a Christian for most of my life, but for much of it I was lukewarm — not actively pursuing holiness or righteousness, and having no power over sin. One sin I was involved in was participating in an illicit sexual relationship for a long period of time.
A few months ago, I had a life-changing experience with God where He brought me to a place where I was convicted of being lukewarm, and I had to choose between being hot or cold. I chose to be "hot" for God (praise His name). As a result of this, I repented of my sin and had to end the relationship when the other person was not willing to continue without sexual activity. I believed the lie that since we loved each other and were planning on marrying, it was OK to have sex, but that was wrong.
I have read many articles concerning people overcoming issues that they have with dealing with someone who did not wait for marriage while they had waited, but none with the problem with reversed, which is why I'm writing.
I know that if I confess my sin, He is faithful and just and will forgive (has forgiven) me of my sin, but I also know that what I have sown, I will also reap. I know in my head I am redeemed, but I often do not feel so in my heart. I have damaged myself and given away something I cannot get back. Some days I get by without thinking about it; on others, I feel much pain and emptiness thinking about what I've done to my (possibly) future wife, whoever that is. It eats at me more than I think it should. Is there a redemption that will move me past this, or are these emotions and thoughts a natural consequence of my sin?
Recently, these issues in my life have moved from the academic to the practical. I find myself developing a friendship with another woman at my church. It is something that I would like to pursue further, but I am very hesitant to pursue that avenue because of my history. In regards to biblical qualities, she is a very godly woman, pursuing Christ. My prayer to God has been that God would give me His heart, and that if that did not include a desire to pursue a relationship with this person, that I would not have it either. I want what God wants for me — nothing more, nothing less.
Whenever I reach a point of pursuing a relationship with anyone, I know that I will have to deal with these issues. How do I go about doing this? What are some practical ways in which I can get past my own pain and self-pity? How can I expect to pursue a relationship with anyone, knowing what I've done?
Several things have come to mind as I've thought and prayed about your situation.
First, I want to validate your struggle. Being "haunted," as it were, by our past, even as believers, is common to all saints. This is terrain we all have to manage our way through. You are not alone.
Second, being haunted by our past (as believers) could reveal something about how our life is centered. Before Christ, yes, it was all me, me, me. I was at the center of the universe (at least in my own mind, not in reality of course).
But once my eyes are opened to the reality of Jesus, I see that I am not actually the main thing. Christ is.
Christ and His cross, not me nor my sin, become the central figures of my identity when He brings me to new life. And it is there at the cross where my sin and shame are all heaped on the One who loved me in my depraved condition and forgives. As powerful as my sin and shame is, His love is greater.
Our sin features prominently in our storyline before Christ, but once He comes, the attention shifts from us to Him, from our sin and shame to His mercy, forgiveness and power!
Third, our acts of sin do matter to God, and they can be used by Him to increase our love for Him. The more we understand how God sees our sin, the more we understand our utter dependence upon His mercy. And that increased understanding on our part translates into increased love for Him.
Luke 7:36-50 tells the story of a "woman of the city, who was a sinner" (aka prostitute) who hears that Jesus is eating at a Pharisee's house. She somehow makes her way toward Him and pours a flask of perfumed oil on His feet. She washes His feet with her own tears and hair. She has no other hope for healing of her pain than this man.
In a scene that unfolds like poetry, Jesus shows that she loves much because she understands she's forgiven much. Jesus points out to the Pharisee that he didn't even give Jesus water to wash His own feet, yet out of love this woman washed His feet with her own tears and hair.
Why the discrepancy of love for Jesus between the Pharisee and the prostitute? Because, Jesus said, "he who is forgiven little, loves little." His point being that she understands her deep depravity and need for forgiveness. The Pharisee, on the other hand, thinks his moral life has saved him. Why should he need, and therefore love, Jesus?
Now, we know that from God's standpoint, both the prostitute and the Pharisee need the same "amount" of forgiveness, because they were both born sinners. But from a human standpoint, her illicit lifestyle seemed to make her at least more aware of her need for forgiveness. That awareness translated to greater love for Christ.
Let God take your past, whatever it is, and use it to help you understand more about Him. The more you understand who He is and what He has done for you, the more you love Him. The more you love Him, the less haunted you are by your past and the more excited you are about your present and future.
You know this already, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that this is the testimony of many heroes of Scripture, including my top three, Moses, David and Paul, all of whom either murdered or were accomplices, yet discovered a God whose love and mercy was more powerful than their past sin.
Yes, these feelings might resurface at different times down the road, but you go back to the cross, rejoice once again at God's stunning mercy, go another step deeper in love with Him and know that He has moved on. You can too.
Copyright 2010 John Thomas. All rights reserved.