Contentment and Joy
From my earliest memories I have longed to know Jesus. The problem was that I couldn’t ever seem to grasp the truth of His salvation. So, I became a seeker. (God rewards those who seek Him diligently. Thankfully.) Though I looked into many different expressions and practices of various religions and beliefs, I continued to return to Jesus as my One Hope. I attempted to get myself connected to Jesus through many different vows, promises, prayers and practices, but I couldn’t seem to bridge the gap and I couldn’t seem to find the way.
One problem with all of this searching was that I couldn’t find any answer to my confusion about my sexual brokenness. You see, immorality was a thing I kept hidden. Good Christians seldom spoke about it. I was asking everyone if they had answers. Perhaps I didn’t get answers because I wasn’t asking my real question...Could Jesus really save me from myself? I knew, even from the time I was in forth or fifth grade that I was hideously, horribly, unforgivably unlovable. To this day I don’t know where I got that idea.
Perhaps it was that I had participated in lying and impurity for several years already. Perhaps it was something God allowed me to be aware of early in my life. Whatever it was, I felt that I was unfixable. So, for many years I was praying, with all the faith I could muster, “Jesus, come into my heart and save me.” I do not know at this time if I was saved in those prayers. I do know that Jesus kept His hand upon me until I came to take His hand and hold it.
After many years, I came to a church where I was willing to ask my real questions. I asked about moral impurity and asked aloud if we could become so broken that God could not fix us. After several months, I had confused and exasperated several of the women of the congregation. Then, we had a retreat. It was at that retreat that God enabled someone to get through the brokenness. “Have you ever received forgiveness of your sins?,” she asked. I shared about my prayers and my baptisms. I shared about evangelism and scripture memory. “I’m sorry. When was it that you received forgiveness of your sins?,” she asked. I shared about my past prayer life and my hopes of sharing with others. I shared about my visions and my spiritual insight. Then, finally, I broke. “I don’t think that I ever have been forgiven of my sins,” I said. And, that evening I told Jesus that I had been wrong...that I had been prideful...that I really needed Him to save me...that I needed Him to forgive me. Then, I was encouraged to thank Jesus for forgiving me. Somehow, I had faith for the first time. I knew that He had forgiven me.
For the next year I walked in a realization that Jesus loved me. It was incredible. It was miraculous. I could hear His voice within me giving me counsel and wisdom. However, there were areas that I was unwilling to obey His prompting in my heart. He was prompting me to clear my conscience in the area of old impurities. He wanted me to bring the brokenness to Him for cleansing and to bring my clean heart to Him for filling.. I consistently resisted His urging within. I refused His grace. Within a few short months the torture of the old things returned and I fell horribly and completely into moral impurity. I fell because I hadn’t learned about how to keep true and lasting freedom while I was still free.
This particular fall was much worse than anything I had experienced before. I fell into a lesbian relationship which lasted and lasted. I could not get out of the relationship and, truthfully, I usually didn’t want out of the relationship. I lost sight of my hopes and dreams. I lost sight of the Lord Jesus. I lost sight of who I was. I was submerged in a deeply emotional and consuming relationship.
This relationship wasn’t my first. Some of my earliest memories of my life involved impurity. Throughout my school years, from grade school on, I had many encounters with school mates—both boys and girls. My behaviors stopped when I entered college because I was afraid of the adult world and felt utterly lost. I withdrew more and more from my femininity. I withdrew more and more from the world and from relationship with others. I withdrew into a world of isolation and depression. Finally, I flunked out of school and my mother brought me home from college. I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything. I couldn’t find a job. I couldn’t communicate what I needed. It was horrible. It was during this time that I found a church that would bear with me. They would eventually break through the heaviness to reveal Christ’s forgiveness.
Anyway, I was born again and walking well until I began resisting the grace of Jesus. When I fell into this last relationship, I experienced moral collapse. My sins were many. I sinned against many. I sinned against God. My question of my heart was, “How could Jesus ever forgive me?”. I wondered if He could really change hearts. What made my moral failure particularly awful was that I could now sense His presence in me. I could hear His voice speaking to me...wooing me...singing over me. Finally, I asked Him to leave me alone. And, He did for a time. There was an equally awful time of not hearing His voice...not hearing His love.
What eventually happened to change my heart and to send me running into His presence is very hard to pin down. Truly, the chain of events could not have been coincidental. In less than a two month period I went from considering making vows to this person for a lifetime partnership to running into the arms of Jesus.
The day I turned to Him was amazing. I happened to return to church on the weekend and heard a friend share his testimony of how Jesus has set him free from the bondage of homosexuality. Dennis had never shared this testimony in all the time I had known him.
Still, here he was at church, sharing about the freedom and deliverance from homosexual bondage. I was shocked and afraid. Still, Dennis ministered. Eventually, he shared an alter call. What I remember most was the song he sang—”I wish I could take your heart into my heart. I wish I could show you just how good it feels to let go of the things that you know are killing you and cling to the One who can heal. It’s true. I love you.” At that moment I went to the alter. I was thinking, “What will I say? How can I pray about this without revealing where I am really at? How can I confess without really confessing?” At the same time I was feeling quite hopeless.
You see, I really couldn’t see any hope of my heart changing. As the women came to pray with me, I found myself half agreeing with God and half hiding from God. I was so far from confessing the truth of my brokenness and I felt the hopelessness increasing. The women were patient. I know they prayed over me and over my half-confessions. Finally, I asked them to pray that I would make the right choices. As we bowed to pray, I felt a sudden fear rise up inside. Instead of running, I found myself doing the praying. “Lord, I can’t change myself. I need your help. Please deliver me!” And, He did. He delivered me from myself and from my circumstances.
He changed my heart! He birthed inside of me a real and convincing freedom (one I could see even in my secret thoughts). Within 24 hours I had broken off the relationship and began to seek help in dealing with the root issues of my heart. About a year later, I found a bible-based support group that grounded me in honesty before the Lord. I entered counseling began to deal with my secrets.
The journey has been incredible. I have fallen in love with Jesus. I am, for the greatest part, content to obey Jesus and He takes me where He wants me to go. However, there have been many steps on the healing journey. Some have been steps which cost me my pride and my comfort. It was not easy to go from trusting in myself to meet the deepest needs of my heart and to move toward trusting Jesus.
The first thing I remember doing was breaking my isolation and sharing my secrets with a trusted older and more stable Christian. This involved, for me, something like a moral inventory. The Holy Spirit enabled me to make a very complete list of all my moral sins. After that, I confessed them to this Christian sister. I hid nothing. I told all. Now some might question why this would be necessary. It accomplished several purposes. First, it put me in the position of agreeing with God that I was hopeless without Him and completely unable to help or to change myself. Secondly, it gave me the opportunity to break vows I had made that kept me a slave to my impurity. Last, it fulfilled the scriptural command: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16, NAS).
The next step I took was to follow God’s prompting to cleanse my home of all possessions connected with my immorality. I was ruthless in this area of obedience. It meant that all articles of clothing, all letters, all books, all gifts, all furniture, all music that was associated with my sin was discarded or given away. Because I was a Christian involved in sin this cleansing involved much of my Christian music and praise tapes. This too fulfilled the scriptural command to cleanse myself of idolatry:
“Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people;” (2 Cor 6:16, NAS)also, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” (I Jn 5:21, NAS)
Over a period of time I was surprised how much freedom came from these two areas of obedience. I also began to involve myself with people and began to build relationships with families in the Church. About a year after my repentance from sexual impurity I entered a new season of my healing. The Lord began to move in me again to deal with the root causes of my brokenness. I sought out a godly counselor and a support bible study. These two additions to my walk with Jesus accelerated my growth and my helped me become more stable. With a counselor I had a more stable accountability for the thoughts and activities which needed to be changed. I began to find a greater emotional health and more control over my mind and will. Thoughts and attitudes which needed my attention and the touch of Jesus were kept much more open and I found ways of walking out the repentance. The support group founded me in the teachings of the Bible regarding the soul and relationships, as well as providing a “safe place” to talk about where I was in my growth.
Today, I still am accountable to godly counsel. It helps me remain open and helps me discern areas I need to bring to the Lord for cleansing. I have a number of relationships in which I can be bluntly honest—even when I fail. As Jesus continues to help me change my thinking I have been finding new thoughts and desires replacing the old ones. I desire God’s solutions for my needs and wants.
I am learning more how to trust Him. (I confess that I am slow to trust.) I am most grateful that God has turned my greatest areas of weakness into areas where He is my greatest strength. He releases His power through my vulnerable areas. He has taken my foolishness and is giving me wisdom. I am grateful that He has never turned away from me disgusted or ashamed of me. I am grateful to be His daughter. Jesus is more and more My Contentment and Source of Joy.
Laura Leigh Stanlake is The Director of Women's Ministries of First Stone Ministries.