Today I wanted to share with you my testimony as shared with our College Group Sunday School Class this morning.
Let me rewind for you a little over ten years ago, when I was in your seat, listening to my College Pastor. Only my College Pastor was someone by the name of Jay Thomas (He is now our Senior Pastor at Chapel Hill Bible Church, NC). Having grown up in a strong Christian family, and having come to faith as a little girl, I fell into the natural rhythm of being highly involved in the college group at church. I attended the Wednesday night Bible studies, Thursday morning prayer breakfasts at our campus’s cafeteria, I played with the College Group music team on Sunday mornings, I was in Rebecca’s small group, my own family’s ranch hosted two of the church’s College Group Fall Retreats, and I was apart of Jay’s Senior Leadership Team. I was in College for a degree in Biblical Studies and I remember reading Jonathan Edwards and John Owen for my own personal pleasure reading during that time. At this point you might expect me to say something like, “But even though I had all the outward expressions of love for God, my heart was far from Him.” But this could not have been farther from the truth. I loved theology, and I loved serving and worshiping the God I was so privileged to study throughout my time at Wheaton College.
I found my heart’s desire for marriage become a reality as I met this grad student in my Greek Exegesis Luke class who, for our first date, took me to a theological debate, hosted by Wheaton College, and, “would it be ok if he brought along a Sudanese man to whom he was witnessing?”. I about died and went to heaven right then and there. On our second date we sang hymns together. On our third date, while walking the streets of Chicago, we stopped and witnessed to and invited bums to lunch with us. After getting married we both taught at a Christian School, he was the High school Bible teacher and I was the Jr. High Bible and Latin Teacher. Soon he became the associate pastor of our church, and I found myself wearing the title of “pastor’s wife”, in addition to the Jr. High Bible Teacher. Shortly after the birth of our first little girl, my husband became an army chaplain, and again, I found myself as the “chaplain’s wife.” We also had another little girl during this time.
So, getting back to being in your seat. If someone had told me this is what the future held for me as a college student, I would have been overwhelmed and overcome with wild joy. It was everything my heart could have desired and more. But while the fairy tale read this way on the outside, there was another story, a horror story that lay hidden underneath it all. It was a horror story that again, rewinding back to your seat, I did not really even knew existed. I had led a pretty sheltered life as a child, and even as a senior in College, I did not even know what it was to be a bulimic. But a lot can change. And things can change quickly.
In between teaching Jr. High Bible classes, you could find me purging in the bathroom stalls. While my new husband slept you could find me sneaking downstairs at all hours of the night to eat and then purge. On Sunday morning’s you could find me singing on our church’s worship team the powerful words of hymns, hymns that I slowly began to wonder were actually true for me, a “Christian Bulimic”…was there even such a thing? Did such a thing exist? I could not reconcile it in my mind. I started to question whether I could truly be saved, because I truly could not stop. I was purging multiple times a day at that point, and it began to consume my life and my every anxious thought. With each new juncture in my life, each new positive pregnancy test, each time I held my precious baby for the first time in the hospital, with each new house (we moved five times), I would think, this is the turning point. This is my chance to stop and prove I am really a Christian. But I couldn’t stop. I became embarrassed to read my bible. I felt guilt and shame that I could not defeat the sin in my life. Why wouldn’t Jesus help me? The only answer I could think of was that I had not truly been saved…I had to prove I was a Christian by stopping this behavior. I couldn’t come to Jesus until I was clean…and even then I would have to come as a naughty child who comes hiding something behind its back.
For five years I was in a vicious cycle of trying to prove my Christianity by “stopping”. I lived in dread of verses like 1 John 3:6. I remember with great agony searching “killing sin” on Desiring God, hoping to figure out John Piper’s formula to help me out of my own circle of death. His words (which are actually John Owen’s) “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you,” literally haunted my dreams.
But God did not wait till I was clean. He did not wait till I had conquered my dragon. You see, our God is the dragon fighter. Our God is the Rescuer. And He does not rescue those who see no need of being rescued. He met me in a moment of purging, not in a moment of having victoriously having conquered bulimia…and He came to me, not in a cloud of raging anger, but as knight comes to rescue the distressed damsel. He chose to shower His grace on me in a moment when my eyes were blood-shot and red, when my mouth was covered in puke, and my own hand was far down my own throat. In an instant He put to death the desire in me to purge. He striped me of any remaining glowing ember of the satanic lie of self-sufficiently. He showed me in a moment that it was all grace. That my standing before Him had only ever been on grace, and that grace is what I had in that moment, and that grace would only ever be all that I could ever have. Only Christ. Only His righteousness. His victory over sin and death was my very own. He had eaten perfectly for me. And it was my joy to only ever be living in freedom of all that God is for me in Christ.
The Lord has given me a huge passion to shout out His grace in the midst of the battle. And while not everyone’s battle will be the same, everyone’s call to faith in the greatness of His grace and Christ’s all-sufficiency remains the same…As one of our great hymns reads, “If we tarry till we’re better we will never come at all.” Run to Jesus now. Let us not wait till we are “better”. Let us change our question from “Have I won this battle over this sin?” to “Am I fighting?”. One question points us to the cross, and the other we find our fingers pointing to ourselves.
I have often wondered, “Why?” If for no other reason than for our understanding of the richness of His mercy to deepen, if for no other reason than for the depths of His love to appear more radiant, if for no other reason than for the beauty of His light to stun us in its dazzling brightness. He delights to burst His light into our darkness. He delights to pour forth the showers of His grace on the forest fires of our hearts. He delights to say, “Peace. Be still!” to the tempests that rage in and around us. He delights to show Himself great in working out our good.
Let us hope in the One who started our story before the foundations of the earth were laid. Let us hope in the One who gave us the desire for Him. Let us hope in the One who keeps our story going, and let us hope in the One who will bring it to completion.