As a follower of Christ my journey and story of faith begins 24 years ago on the day of my birth, where I was the firstborn of eight kids to wonderful parents. I grew up being saturated with Biblical truth from regularly attending church with my family and being homeschooled by mother, who made it a priority to disciple us. Within these environments my knowledge of God and the Christian faith seemed to flourish and thrive. However, deep within the confines of my heart and soul something was missing that I would not understand until later in my life.
You see, while my knowledge of God seemed to be prospering, it was merely knowledge in my head that had never found its way to my heart. I walked around speaking a language with terms like sanctification, grace, forgiveness, etc. and “knowing” all their definitions and theological meanings, yet being far removed from having tangible experiences with these things in my life. The older I grew, especially in high school, the more the gap between my head knowledge and heart knowledge grew. I was fluently speaking a language with colorful and extravagant words, and yet, these words could not have been more empty. I knew and heard about God’s love, but I had no real experience with this love. This lacking of God’s love in my life left a gaping hole in my heart that needed to be filled. I sought to fill this hole with many things, things that seemed to fill me for a short while but left me emptier and emptier with each passing day.
I specifically turned to pornography. What had started as an occurrence every now and then became an addiction that grew its roots deep into my heart and took hold of my very identity. This sin festered within me like a parasite sucking away the life from my bones. I became a slave to sin as it began to seep into every aspect of my life affecting my attitude, my view of myself, my happiness, and the relationships of those closest to me. It was while I was in the midst of my helpless state that God got a hold of me and opened my eyes to see what had become of me.
My eyes were opened to how I had forgone the life-giving love of God for the life-taking disease of sin. I began seeing the gospel with new-found freshness. I remembered back to Genesis and how it was God’s breath that brought life into being and that it was in relationship with God where humanity truly flourished in peace, love, and life. It was when man sought fulfillment apart from God that sin, with its emptiness and death, was brought into the world.
This is what separation from the Father looks like; destruction, pain, emptiness, and, ultimately, death. This is what my life had become. I felt so far from God, from everything good and life-giving. I had no hope of overcoming this death on my own because it had become my identity. My only hope of restoration and healing stood with Jesus.
It’s Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection that saved me and brought me out of my state. I relearned about Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross and how “He became sin, who knew no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor 5:21). Jesus became sin, and suffered its ultimate end, death. Jesus didn’t stop there though; He was resurrected and showed that there is hope for life by overcoming the very death that was in store for me. It is only through Jesus’s work and through Jesus’s victory that I can be reconciled with the Father and breathe in true life again.
In Colossians 1, Paul talks about how it is by and through Jesus that all things were created. What I take Paul to be saying here, and what is especially profound to me, is that all created things derive life from relationship with Jesus. Now, I don’t merely see this as some spiritual mystical life, but I see this as life in and of itself. Everything that exists outside of relationship with Jesus will wither and die because it has been taken from its life source. No wonder I was lost and empty as I sought to fill myself with these material things! It is only as I abide in Jesus that I can truly live, both literally and spiritually. Jesus talks all about this in John 15, where he talks about the vine and the branches. What happens to branches when they are not connected to the vine? Simple, right? They wither and die. So as long as we abide in Jesus, not only will we live, we will thrive, prosper, and bear “much fruit” (John 15:5).
As my eyes were opened to this truth and as I made more effort to abide in Jesus through meaningful time in prayer, scripture reading and meditation, worship, and thanksgiving, the more life I receive and the more I feel like who I was made to be. Things won’t ever be perfect, and though I’ve overcome my addiction through Him, I have much more to overcome, and I must always remember to abide in Him lest I wither and die. My prayer, hope, and desire is that all who struggle with sin can find the life they are meant to have in Jesus. Abide in Him, seek Him, follow Him, and enjoy how He pours living water into your soul.