Letting Go of My Guilt

Terri’s Story:

I wasted 28 years allowing shame to control me. I hid myself in places I thought God wouldn’t see – outside the walls of my church, inside the walls of a wine bottle or a bar or a sham of a marriage. I didn’t realize it then, but God was in every shameful place I dwelled. He never lost sight of me.

I was 12 when I became a believer. My parents began attending a new kind of church, a Bible Church. I must admit, it was very different from my grandparent’s church. I was taught about Jesus in a way that I could understand and learned what it meant to have a personal relationship with Him. I was all in! My sins were forgiven and the Holy Spirit moved into my heart. There was no kid more committed to the Lord than me. Over time my faith was tested and I failed miserably. At first, it was just feeling guilty because I got drunk in high school.  I justified my sin by making God the bad guy – if only He had done (fill in the blank) for me, then I wouldn’t have gotten drunk. Getting drunk and the stuff that goes with it made me feel unworthy to even approach the throne of God. I quit church altogether. I still believed I’d go to heaven, but I’d be in the back row.

My shame hit another level at age 19 when I had an abortion. All I could think was, how have I sunk to such a level? And if I’m honest, how could God let this happen to me? There was no boy for me to partner with and no way I would endure the humiliation of admitting what I’d done to my parents. I prayed. I begged God for forgiveness and then I kept the burden of the terrible choice I made. I could not expect Jesus to take away my heartache – I deserved the suffering as a consequence of sin. The truth is that I was forgiven, but what I didn’t accept was that God NEVER saw me as I saw myself – nor did He want me to suffer. That’s why He sent Christ to die for my sins and failures.

At 23, I married for the first time. I never told my boyfriend/fiancé/husband about my past and ultimately it led to my first divorce. I believed if he knew what I had done, he NEVER would have married me. It was too late to try and explain the source of my anger, rage, depression, drinking, fear and resentments. I left him before he could leave me.

By 28, I was getting close to marrying again and I wanted to have “that” family. It was time to get back in church. I went, he didn’t. Conviction started setting in and it became clear we would not be able to raise a family together, so I broke up with him, but not with my shame and not my drinking.

I learned that sin, especially when it’s ongoing, needs to be confessed – first to God but then to believers in Christ. James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

The only Christians in my life at the time were my parents – and I sure wasn’t going to confess to them! There I was in church, paralyzed in growing closer to the Lord. About six years passed when I met the man who would become my second husband. He was not a believer but I thought sharing my secrets with him would prove that I loved him. I thought he might understand God’s forgiveness by me revealing my shame and I really hoped God would bless our marriage even though we were not “equally yoked”.

Just a month into our marriage I found out he was cheating.  It took a few months but when I came to grips with it, I started divorce proceedings. This was the ultimate in humiliation for him so the threats began. He said I was a hypocrite, just like everyone else in church and he was going to make sure everyone knew it – starting with my parents. After much anguish including begging God for an alternative, I ultimately confessed my sin and shame to the two people I had strived so hard to protect. And in that moment, they put their arms around me and said they were not ashamed, they loved me. Right there, at the kitchen table, I finally gave my shame to Jesus who had already nailed it to the cross.

Releasing this burden allowed me to begin a new walk with Christ. I still made a few questionable decisions along the way, but I managed to not let go of His hand. Another reason my life changed was because I got out of my seat on Sundays and involved with my church. Each time I was side-by-side with other Christians, I began to see Jesus all around me.

I can finally thank the Lord for everything. Jesus took our guilt – all of it – when He died on the cross and every day I spend bearing it takes something away from what Christ did for me. It’s not that God wanted me to make the choices I did, but He is using those choices to draw others to Him. He gives me a heart for joy and I marvel at His ways. In my 40’s I married again, to a divorce attorney of all things! We were a little late in the game, so we do not have children. Several years ago I retired from my corporate career after 30 years and God opened the door for me to lead the Pre-K ministry at my church. I literally have more children than I can count! Most of all, I want to encourage women who are holding on to shame of any kind – stop! The Lord has nailed it to the cross with mine.

4 Comments on “Letting Go of My Guilt

  1. What an amazing testament to God’s perpetual nature and true love for us – thank you for sharing your experiences Terri!

  2. Wow thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing your story. What an encouragement it is to us all who have struggled so long with our bad choices in life….and now can ultímately give all glory to our beautiful Savior. Your joy is infectious to all who encounter you and I’m so thankful for how you serve the babies in our church.

  3. Amen and amen. You have loved my babies both so well and encouraged me in the process. Your gifts and God’s redeeming work is beautifully on display in this writing and in your example.

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