I remember the first time I really contemplated “sin”, I was at church… fitting right? It was a couple years ago, I had recently started going to church and during the sermon the topic of sin came up. I looked at my husband, baffled, and asked him “what is sin?” I felt really stupid for even asking (and even more ignorant for googling “sin” in church), but I didn’t really understand it. I mean I knew about the 10 commandments and the really bad things, like not to kill someone or steal, etc… but what else? What was “sin”? Was there a list? In case you’re wondering, the all knowing Google defines sin as “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law.” Um, so ok, what’s immoral? I mean I know what the really bad “immoral” things are, like stealing and killing, but is there a list? As you can imagine I googled “immoral” (I’m an Xennial, what can I say – we Google things, in church) and came up with this: “the state or quality of being immoral; wickedness”. I had a great conversation with my husband after church, questioning all the things in life; is gossip sin? how about wine, is it sinful to drink? what about marijuana (it was on the ballot to be passed in California at the time), is smoking a sin? what about yelling at my kids? spanking? My head was swirling with questions about sin. I try really hard to be a good person, for the most part, and I didn’t want to sin. I don’t want to be a “sinner”. I’m a Christian, sin is bad! I don’t WANT to sin! But if I don’t know what sin really, truly is (like have a list or something) then how can I abstain from it? So that was my first adult, deep thought about sin.
All this sinful contemplation brought me back to the first time I started going to church. I wasn’t raised in a “religious” home or went to church or was taught much about God (except for the occasional times my Grandmother brought me with her to Catholic church) but when I was a teen and my parents were in the middle of an ugly divorce, my Grandmother passed away from a long suffering of pancreatic cancer and my Mother became an alcoholic… I started going to youth group with my friend. I first discovered the peace and joy and love of God when I was about 14 years old. I loved going to church, youth group, camp, all nighters, and the other great activities where I learned about Jesus, God, fellowship, faith, and true love. I got baptized then and was so happy despite my struggles at home. I remember vividly coming home after church functions, on a God high full of peace and happiness, and my Mom would accuse me of going just for “the boys” and then the reality of my life in an angry, dysfunctional home would burst my bubble… each and every time. The notion of sin was in my awareness and I remember so clearly one day, while listening to LL Cool J, Back Seat of My Jeep (one of my faves at the time), wondering if listening to that song was a sin? Then that thought spiraled into an overwhelming feeling of being defeated by sin. How do I live in the world, as a teen, and not sin? My THOUGHTS are sinful, the music I listen to (and love) is sinful, my environment is sinful… the pressure was too heavy for me at that time and I slowly turned away from God. I didn’t have anyone to disciple me through those times, to teach me about living in a sinful world, to nurture me in my infancy of Christianity, to guide me through this difficult time in my walk with Christ. And after that, I rebelled. I got mixed up with some bad things; drugs, alcohol, sex. I wanted to escape the feeling of helplessness I was feeling at home and in my life, to take “control” and make my own (bad) decisions. I was young, living in San Diego, moved out own on my own when I was 18 years old. Many nights partying at home, or in Tijuana, or at friend’s houses. I started dating a guy from work and when my lease was up, he and I moved in together and then it turned in an abusive relationship. I got pregnant at the age of 19 and after several fights where the cops had to be called, and an incident that put him in jail for domestic violence, I had to make the hardest decision of my life… keep my daughter safe and place for her adoption.
I spiraled in grief and despair after that. For almost a year I got heavily involved with marijuana and alcohol, just trying to dull the pain. One day, I decided “enough was enough”… I had a second chance at life. My fate wasn’t going to be a “poor, uneducated, single mother” and I had an opportunity to do something good, something significant with my life. I got a good job, started going to college, began to build up broken friendships, and continued on my journey. I didn’t think much about “sin” at this time in my life; I went on a girls trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, moved to Chico to finish college & partied with the best of them. Met my husband in Chico, we moved in together and got married about a year later, even had our bachelor/bachelorette parties in Vegas. I knew “right” from “wrong” and for the most part, I really just tried to do “right” in my life.
2 years ago my Dad tragically died from a heart attack, at the age of 57, and it crushed my world. I began spiraling, drinking heavily at times to try to dull the pain. My husband was so incredibly supportive and my family and friends rallied around me to help me through the other most difficult time in my life. 2 months after my Dad died, my husband and I decided we wanted to start going to church, we wanted to raise our children in church… which brings me to where this sinful story began.
As I grow in my faith and learn more about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and what it means to be a Christian, I continue to contemplate sin. As a Christian, I want to serve my God and be the best me possible, for His glory, His plan, His purpose. I don’t want to sin. I don’t want to be gripped by sin. But what is sin? I was at church with my sister a few months ago and there was this beautiful sermon about “sin” and he explained it as “without God”, then it clicked for me, in Spanish “sin” means WITHOUT. So it’s living without God, in a concise and overarching sense. I understood that! Living without God is living a sinful life. Over the years I keep hearing about “ Christians who sin” and makes me wonder, why do people still sin if they know God hates it?
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23.
I know it’s impossible to live a sinless life, there’s only one human who has done that in the history of time and that was God himself, as his son, Jesus Christ. So now what? How do we live a sinful life as Christians?
You know how God puts things together so divinely and intricately, it’s hard to even comprehend? (if you don’t know, I highly suggest you pray for it, open your eyes and heart to seeing His Divine signs, you’ll begin to experience some really spectacular, unreal things – another post for another time). Well some friends from church were starting a life group and invited our family to join. I had been wanting to join a group and was excited to be a part of it. Guess what? The book they chose to discuss was “Extravagant Grace” God’s glory displayed on our weakness. It’s all about how sin and weakness in our life glorify God. It’s a hard concept that I’ve been wrestling with; understanding my relationship with sin, the sin in my heart, what sin is, how to live with sin all around. This concept has been seeping into my soul and the idea of sin, sanctification and God’s extravagant grace and forgiveness is becoming a concept that I can grasp, understand and marvel in the power and majesty of God’s grace and forgiveness.
Maybe this is a basic concept that others can comprehend easily, but I really struggled with it a couple decades ago as a teen, which lead to me turning my back to God. I have been trying to wrap my head around it this time as I grow deeper in my faith and understanding of salvation, forgiveness and living a righteous life. God’s love, grace and forgiveness remind me of this song, “Your Love Never Fails” and this verse that hit me like a freight train during worship one Sunday morning “You make, all things, work together for my good”. Even sin. Even what we perceive to be bad things. We don’t know God’s plan and how he uses our weaknesses, sin and shortcomings to teach us, grow us, strengthen us and use that for his glory. In my life, I can look back and see how God has used my sin, for the good. I have a beautiful daughter whom I get to have a relationship with. My experience with adoption and being a birth-mother has helped shape me, teach me and grow with increased compassion and understanding because of it. He makes all things work together for my good. My Dad and I had a difficult relationship for several reasons, but past sin in my life had actually help restore my relationship with him, so luckily I had a few years of a wonderful relationship with my Dad before he passed away. When I think about how God used my sin in that way, I’m baffled and stunned at his grace and mercy! He makes all things work together for my good. My father died, a tragedy in my life, but from that I came back to Christ, started walking with Him again, rededicated my life to Him, and now raising my children to know and love Him too. That was God’s “collateral beauty”. He makes all things work together for my good. It may take months, years, decades, a lifetime, or never, to see how He works things out for our good, but the importance of these life trials and lessons are to keep the faith, believe, pray and praise God through everything.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life” James 1:12.
It takes hard work, and quite often I have to intentfully remind myself through the difficult times, to have faith. But I choose to focus on joy in these situations. I choose to capture inspiration through the trials of life and this most recent revelation in my heart about sin has been profound.
One of the cornerstones of Christianity is wrapped up in a beautiful a verse from the Bible, John 3:16 which says ” For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”. Even though I am, was and always will be a sinner, I BELIEVE! I pray, have faith, try not to sin, pray some more, and trust in God through it all.