Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dear Friend,

My name is Laura, and this blog is about my ongoing journey from bondage to guilt, shame, doubt, insecurity, legalism, and perfectionism into the freedom of God’s grace. It has been and still is a rough road, but now I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything.

My story begins when I was about 3 years old. I invited Jesus into my heart one day with my grandmother, and two years later I was baptized. For several years afterward, I believed that I was a Christian, saved and on my way to heaven. I did not remember either asking Jesus into my heart or being baptized, but I did not consider that to be any problem whatsoever. The point was that I asked, and Jesus heard me.

Fast forward to about 8 or 9 years old. As a young child, I had a very active imagination. As I grew older, however, this blessing seemed nearly to be a curse, for I began experiencing extreme confusion whenever I would pray and think God might have spoken to me or showed me something. I never had any certainty in regard to hearing His voice, and I found it quite distressing when I came to the realization that much of what I thought might have been the Lord's voice was indeed merely my childish imagination coming into play. This became quite the conflict for me, for I had heard of Scriptural warnings concerning people claiming to speak for God but who were not, in fact, speaking His words (see Deut. 18:20). Therefore, I placed great importance upon accuracy in hearing from God to the point that prayer became truly miserable for me.

Then, when I was about 11 years old, a couple of different people questioned me regarding the authenticity of my salvation experience, especially considering my age and the fact that I didn't actually remember the event. Now, these two people had the absolute best of intentions when they asked me this question. They merely wanted to make sure that I was, in fact, a true believer and not merely deceiving myself. But the seed of doubt took firm hold in my mind, and suddenly I had no assurance of my salvation. I found myself feeling overwhelmed by doubt and fear, and no matter how many times I asked God to save me, repented and confessed every possible sin I could think of, I could not find the assurance that I was seeking.

As the years progressed, I slowly became ever more tightly bound by the chains of fear, doubt, and anxiety. I completely lacked a sense of eternal security, and without it I felt completely unanchored. This insecurity bred an extreme focus upon following the letter of the law to a "T," as far as humanly possible, and obsessive soul-searching and repentance regarding every minor infraction. I truly believed that keeping the rules, or at least keeping a short and perfectly accurate account with God, was the only way He would even speak to me - let alone be pleased with me. Perfection became my goal, but as I came to discover, this was not possible. I tried to operate on a black-and-white basis, thinking that everything could be reduced to a matter of absolute right vs. absolute wrong. But to my frustration, I discovered that there are many gray areas in life. And I could not tolerate not knowing, with 100% certainty, what to do in any given situation. I fell into a black hole, and could see no way to achieving the peace of mind and heart that I was so desperately seeking.

It is by God's grace, coupled with the loving support of a network of caring people in my life, that I have come to realize the error of viewing life through the lens of doubt, legalism, and black-and-white thinking. Although I am still far from proficient in navigating the gray areas of life, I have begun learning to accept a measure of uncertainty and to tolerate my lack of perfection. That is, after all, why Jesus died - to liberate me from the sin from which I could not free myself. It is His grace that affords me the opportunity to make mistakes, learn from them, and move on. So much better than the black-and-white approach to life, the way of God's grace is indeed a spectrum of color that, I believe, turns our gray areas into myriad opportunities for God's goodness to shine.

If you, like me, have struggled with slavery to the law in any fashion, just know that freedom from the burden of guilt and shame is possible. While I still struggle, I have more peace in my heart now than I have had in many years, and every day I am drawing closer to complete freedom. So, I encourage you to join me as I transition away from the black-and-white approach of living according to a law-based operating system. Come along for the ride as I learn to navigate the gray areas with the goal of reaching the Technicolor of the full light of God’s grace.

Yours Truly,

From Gray to Grace