Winter’s Story: 

Have you had a moment that made you want to leap, shout, and run a lap around the world? Well that’s how I felt the second I understood what God’s grace meant. The only problem – I experienced this aha on a charter bus headed to a work retreat with a group of complete strangers. And so, my story begins….

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home but had an awareness of God and knew He was real. I came to know Christ as my Lord and Savior in January 2010. He not only forgave my sins but completely transformed my life. I began walking closely with the Lord and could be found studying His word and basking in His presence hours on end. God had created this amazing space to fall in love with Him.

During this time, a guy friend I had known for a number of years shared his heart for me and we began a dating relationship. We felt the Lord brought us together and had the support of family and friends. Though we lived states apart, we committed to move forward. Within a few months and many prayers later, he accepted a job offer in Houston, and our whimsical journey as a couple began. He proposed months later, and I said yes!

Together we believed God designed sex as a gift to be enjoyed and shared between a husband and wife in the covenant of marriage. We desired to honor God’s Word, so we established physical boundaries and invited a godly couple to mentor and hold us accountable. Needless to say, we spent oodles of time together, and without realizing it, my time with God dwindled. Even though I still prayed and attended church, the intimacy cultivated in my relationship with God gradually transferred to my fiance’.

As time went on, the unhealthy baggage we individually carried from our past became too complicated to work through within the relationship and sent us on an emotional roller coaster, while physical boundaries began to blur. Within the year, we broke up twice and I continually questioned the relationship. After recovering from an emotional low, we made up like other times, except on this occasion our passions sped further than anticipated. Thoughts went through my mind about how God is feeling about all this, but we were swept up in the moment. While totally aware of what happened, it felt surreal, like I stood outside of myself watching it play out.

The next morning, I felt empty, questioning if what we did constituted as sex. On top of that, I wondered how this relationship differed from previous ones. Supposedly this was the Godly one where we practiced self-control, respected one another, and honored God with our waiting. I questioned how we ended up here and struggled with my thoughts as the full weight of my actions settled. Realizing we pursued sexual passion outside of marriage broke me as it meant we were on a course outside of God’s plan, and revealed just how far I had drifted from my first love, God.

The days after completely strained our relationship. With everything different, I knew things could not continue. I processed with a close sister in Christ, and while it was no easy feat, I found courage to end the relationship. Even though I knew this was right, I plunged into one of the roughest seasons of my life. I remember thinking my perfect record with God became blemished. Upset with myself, I felt like God too was mad at me, and nothing could put me back in His good graces.

After several months of self-badgering and convincing myself God could never forgive me, He sent a breath of fresh air. Without knowing my situation, a friend recommended a book by Max Lucado called “Grace, More Than we Deserve, Bigger Than we Imagine”. Little did I know this book would be part of my story, ultimately changing my life.

As I read, scales fell from my eyes, and the sneaky beast pride which blinded me started to shrink, allowing me to take in the full picture of God’s grace, which is a free gift from God. No matter how “good” I behaved, it would never be enough to earn His love or forgiveness because He gives with no strings attached. God’s love is on constant flow and is not swayed by my good, bad or worse choices. Somewhere in my journey I prided myself for doing all the right things and never thought for a moment this could be me but realized I could not barter God for His grace. Ephesians 2:8 says we are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves but a free gift from God.

God’s grace had already covered my epic fail, and any future ones. Like salvation, I could choose to either receive or reject. This revelation birthed a freedom on the inside I couldn’t contain. I wanted nothing more than to jump, shout and dance a jig, but there was one small hitch. I was on a charter bus headed to an out of town work retreat and had to remain seated. I thought I would burst because all I could do was goofily smile at everyone and stare out into the sun, basking in the light of His love, forgiveness, and grace. “I get it God” I quietly uttered to myself.

Not only did God’s grace remind me I’m truly forgiven, without debt, penalty, or question, but it also taught me to forgive and extend grace to others, starting with myself and my fiancé at the time. Choosing to believe God’s grace gave me wings to be myself, regardless of what others thought of me and His grace dispelled lies that once kept me bound.

I now graciously mentor women in dating relationships. I help them process emotions, plan to intentionally maintain purity, be honest about their relationships, and get to know their potential suitor in the open with accountability. Most importantly, my sweet sisters are encouraged to cultivate their love relationship with Jesus, as this relationship is above all others. I pray my story offers hope to anyone whose had an epic fail of any kind, struggling with uncertainty of how God feels them, or wondering if they can be forgiven. Truth is, God loves you, and His love covers any epic fail you and I may encounter. Yes, you are forgiven, yes, His grace is more than any person deserves and bigger than can be imagined, and yes, yes, yes, He loves you. Always has and always will.