The unique story of each Christian believer is often considered their testimony. There is another phrasing I’ve grown to adopt after hearing others and sharing my own story of sin and grace. A wise sister recently shared in my presence, “The beauty of sharing our specific stories of sin and grace verses our testimony, is that it takes the focus off of us. Instead the focus is placed on what the Lord has done in, through, and for us.” That verbiage struck me in the moment as powerful. I grew up with an understanding of the purpose of sharing one’s testimony. Yet, it always seems to fall flat and be primarily about the person who had been transformed. What about the Person who had done the transforming?
My hope and prayer is that through sharing my own story of sin and grace, you would walk away with an overview of how the Lord has weaved Himself and His protection through every facet of my life. Even when I walked away from Him, He remained faithful to me. I’m grateful for the wisdom and leadership that introduced me to this idea of “Stories of Grace.” Christie Lacy, you have shaped and sharpened me through your own obedience to what God calls you to. I am forever grateful for your influence that points me to Jesus every single time I have a conversation with you.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV
The Beginning Stages of Sin and Grace
While I didn’t grow up in a “Christian home,” my grandfather claimed a love for the Lord. He took my younger sister and I to church on Saturday nights for much of our childhood. I have sensed a calling from the Lord and “accepted Christ into my heart” at a very young age. I was also baptized as a pre-teen.
We moved around a lot as a result of my mother’s struggle with alcoholism. Praise God, she’s been sober for over a decade now and loves the Lord. My older brother did not grow up in our home, and my two siblings and I all have different fathers. My brother and sister were raised knowing their father’s and having them play a role in their lives. It wasn’t until high school that I met my father, and that wasn’t the best experience. He is not in my life today.
I had a very strong moral compass from a young age, knowing well right from wrong. Many family members are probably learning this for the first time reading this, but I was exposed to the dark side of the internet around 12 years old. I was exposed to things that no child should be exposed to, and no one knew about it. It’s difficult to admit how ugly that was. It’s even harder to acknowledge now how much darker it’s become as access has become practical limitless for both predators and children. I believe this unfortunate and unacceptable exposure played a vital role in the sin I would walk in as a teenager. Yet, I can look back and see God’s provision and protection while Satan attempted to sink his claws into a little girl with little leadership in her life.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.Ephesians 6:12 ESV
A Teenager With No Foundation
While my childhood included trauma and little time to be a child, I somehow still excelled through school. My mom was approached more than once by different schools hoping to skip me a grade. She never decided to do that, and by my junior year of high school I was pretty done with the public school system that raised me.
There was one vital moment in my life that shook me and my family to our core the summer going into my junior year. I was 16 that summer, and things took a major turn. Without a strong biblical foundation, this moment shook me, so deeply. I completely forsake my “goodie two-shoes” reputation everyone knew me for. I don’t remember exactly how I found out, but a close family member had been arrested for sexually abusing another close member of our family.
Hardly believing it, I could barely understand it. I remember vividly the questions I found myself asking myself. How could this be true if I was never harmed? Why not me, if every single opportunity was exactly the same for it to be me? How can God be all-powerful, and yet allow for this to happen to someone so innocent? I couldn’t handle these questions, and quickly said, “Forget it, I’m done.” Just like that, I didn’t care about my morals or what I thought was right or wrong. I quit “trying” to do good. It was here that my story of sin and grace would begin.
I lost my virginity that very week, and would go on to make similar choices for the next roughly 8 months of my life and beyond. I stopped going to church for the most part. If I did go it was with a crowd of people who had no clue any better than I did of God’s love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Yet, through all of those poor choices, God protected me. I’ve thought so many times how easily I could have ended up pregnant, with an STD, and/or honestly physically harmed. In His great mercy, I didn’t experience any of those things.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?Romans 6:16 ESV
Redemption When I Couldn’t See It
Less than a year into this new way of living life, regularly drinking, smoking, and “partying,” my (future) husband, Craig, entered the picture. It seems fun while you’re in the middle of a mess like this. But the truth is it’s really just a grasping for purpose and meaning. It’s ultimately a form of self-worshiping to live life in this way. I cared about myself, and only myself and couldn’t see a reason to be living any other way.
There was a party at my childhood best friend’s house while her parent’s were on a trip hours from home. There was under-age drinking and all of the other “lovely things” I managed to surround myself with at the time. I learned that my childhood crush would be at this party, who also happened to be my best friend’s cousin. He was 4 years older than me, and I carried that crush from a very young age. I knew in my heart of hearts that because of the age difference it was “never going to happen.” My human knowledge is limited, while God knew different all along. My story of sin and grace would continue weaving it’s thread through my life.
Long story short, we connected innocently that night and there was certainly something there between us. A week or two later, I was dancing around the house singing, “Guess who messaged me on MySpace?!” (Yes, MySpace. Haha.) We went on a date soon after that, and needless to say were inseparable from then on. Our relationship had a lot of issues and up and downs. In my depravity and lack of wisdom and discernment I even admitted once, “If we got pregnant I would probably get an abortion.” Words that would haunt me the rest of my life, especially the very moment I held our first son in my arms years later. Even in that, the Lord was protecting me all along the way. Despite my deep rebellion, there He was all along, weaving in and out of the details patiently waiting for me to return.
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.Romans 6:17-18 ESV
A Relationship Headed Nowhere Good
In the first two years of our relationship, we lived in sin. As soon as I graduated high school, at ages 18 and 22, we moved from all we knew in Southern California to Washington state. We were on what we thought would be an exciting adventure. However, it quickly turned into what we created as our own little hell we lived in. We both struggled in secret with feelings and attractions to other people. I began struggling through questioning my own sexuality. Was I only attracted to the opposite sex? It sure didn’t seem like it. In our sin and present struggle with pornography, this questioning of mine was greatly emphasized.
It wasn’t all bad, there was some joy…enough to cause him to propose to me. I said yes, but we had a lot more heartache to walk through. I had made a friend during out time in Washington named Hannah. Hannah was a devote and outspoken Christian. She was easily one of the kindest people I have ever met in my adult life.
Two weeks after Craig proposed (and I said yes), I left him in Washington state. I moved back home to Southern California. Both heartbroken in different ways, we sought our worth in other relationships and continued down the path of destruction and sin. A year after we had moved to Washington, he came back home for his first visit since moving. I had already been back home for 3 months, and Craig and I were in contact again. I drove to his dad’s house to see him, and we couldn’t bear to be apart. There would be more lying and betrayal involved in our future from both sides. We soon we found ourselves right back where we left it in Washington, unhappy and out of ideas.
…For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.Romans 6:19b ESV
A Mustard Seed Planted
Hannah, my Christian friend from Washington, was down for a visit. We were living together in my mom’s house, and just trying to get by. One Saturday afternoon we ended up in an argument bad enough for Craig to get out of our car in a neighborhood we didn’t know. We were over an hour away from home somewhere in Los Angeles. My sister, Kylie, and Hannah were with us, and witnessed the entire thing. When Craig took off walking down the road, Kylie got our and followed him while Hannah stayed with me. I think she got into the front seat, and began counseling me. It wasn’t with worldly council, but biblical. The sin and grace again, hand in hand working together to shape who I was and who I am.
The main thing I remember her saying to me was, “Maybe you both need something more to live for, than just each other.” She meant Jesus, and I knew that deep in my soul. I knew Craig might not understand that, but he was at a loss and willing to try whatever it took to figure out how to make us work. Early that next morning we had a long drive to Las Vegas to take Hannah to catch her plane. It was a Sunday morning, and I asked Craig on the way home if he’d be willing to go to my old church with me that night. They always held a more young adult friendly service on Sunday nights, and I knew that full and well.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.Romans 6:20-21 ESV
A Mustard Seed Taking Root
Peace that could only come from the Lord overcame me as soon as Hannah had spoken those words to me in that car that Saturday afternoon so many years ago. We went to that church service that very Sunday night. Immediately after it was over I said I wanted to try to talk to the pastor. This wasn’t a small church, and the Lord provided the opportunity and time for Craig and I to have an honest conversation with Pastor Tim Kuhl that evening. I rededicated my life to Jesus in a simple prayer guided by Tim that night while Craig accepted Christ in his heart for the first time in his life.
We spent the next afternoon in Tim’s office. That was the day we made the drastic decision to repent of the sin in our relationship. We wanted to learn what it would look like to live for Someone other than ourselves, or each other. I actually lived with his mom, and him with my mom until our wedding date. We ended up married, with Pastor Tim officiating our ceremony, a short month later in Craig’s mom’s backyard.
In terms of my story of sin and grace, the sin was beginning to fade while the understanding of grace would be years in the making.
…the power of Divine grace to control the strongest affections of the human heart and subdue the rebellious will, bringing it into unrepining acquiescence to the sovereign pleasure of Jehovah.A.W. Pink | Entire Resignation to God’s Sovereignty
Big Changes Ahead Through Sin and Grace
Our lives took a 360 degree turn. The Lord blessed us with a flourishing relationship in many ways that we had not experienced prior. Many of our struggles were redeemed including habits and desires that we had engaged in. It would be another long 7+ years, two big moves, and 2+ children before we would land in a church body that would begin drastically impacting our individual sanctification processes and understanding of sin and grace.
A little over 2 years into our marriage, we moved 8 hours north to Northern California. Craig had a new job opportunity. Less than 4 moths after that move, we welcomed our first son into the world. During our 5 years in NorCal, we church hopped, moved into a fifth wheel for 2 years, experienced the heartache of miscarriage, welcomed our second son into the world and faced the hardship of Postpartum Depression (PPD), I began my photography and birth/doula career. We struggled.
With desires to leave California and find a slower-paced life (which we had experienced during our time in Washington), we had little hope of this actually happening. Craig had even flown to Idaho for an interview at another company, just to be denied the job. We learned a lot about trusting the Lord through prayer over doors being opened and closed where He saw fit. Eventually, an opportunity too good to be true (yet, it was true) presented itself. The catch was that it meant we’d move somewhere I said I would never agree to moving to.
Soon after, I learned the lesson of “never say never.” We found ourselves purchasing our first home in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. Almost immediately the Lord was tangibly at work in our lives here. He used a neighbor to lead us to the only church we’d end up trying after church hopping for 5 years in NorCal. I cried tears of joy feeling at home at a small church up the road from our new home. My story of sin and grace would continue with grace abounding.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.Roman 6:22-23 ESV
Sanctification and the Sovereignty of God
In our going on 4 years in Texas, the Lord has continued to amaze us with His faithfulness and goodness, despite our lack of both these things. We have been immersed and welcomed into a church body with sound, biblical teaching and a heart for what true community was designed for and looks like. We’ve welcomed our third son into the world and shortly after that walked through the year of 2020 that seemed to flip the entire world upside down.
Our ideals have been challenged through discipleship relationships, and rightfully re-ordered under the headship of Christ and His gospel. We’ve had the gospel preached to our specific circumstances and have hopefully preached the gospel into other’s. We’ve learned about stories of sin and grace through incredible relationships shaped by bible studies organized and lead by gifted members of our church body.
It’s not possible to deny the Lord’s work through my story of sin and grace. There is sanctification in what He has allowed in His sovereignty to take place through the sufferings we have faced.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.Romans 5:1-5 ESV
What Could Have Been, What’s to Come
I so often think about what it would have been like to have been provided a firm foundation and deep-rooted understanding of who God is early on in my life. This thought comes up frequently when spending time serving as a leader alongside the teenagers in our church. If only I had understood then why God allows bad things to happen, and how He redeems them for good. How might my story of sin and grace look different?
I find myself in a place in my life that allows me to rest in the peace God provides. That same peace allows me to share openly the reality and truth of my story of sin and grace. God’s peace prevents the enemy from hushing me with the fear he so easily snares me with. My hands are open, praying, “Lord, have Your way with me.”
My story of sin and grace will continue until my Maker calls me home. May I remember the words of A.W. Pink that:
…the Divine Potter has absolute power over the clay and molds it according to His own imperial pleasure…To really learn this lesson is, by grace, to attain unto a high grade in the school of God; and even when we think we have learned it, we discover, again and again, that we have to relearn it!A.W. Pink | Entire Resignation to God’s Sovereignty