We all have a story. When my children have to write a story for school, they usually bring it to me before they turn it in. I’m the kind of dad that has a hard time with the incomplete sentences, misplaced commas and misspellings. I do my corrections and then they turn in the story. I’m sure the teacher smiles when she realizes, this is the part the father wrote, and this is the part the child wrote. As I look back over parts of the story of my life, I, like my child’s teacher, smile when I realize, these are the parts the Father wrote. Let’s take a few minutes to thank God and praise His name for writing our story.
Song: I Bless Your Name
God not only wrote my story, he chose the setting. For me it was a Christian home in middle class America. Because of the setting, I have never really known want in a physical sense. And I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t know about the cross of Jesus and His love for me. I learned these verses when I was very young. I Corinthians 15:3 “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” and I John 2:2 “He is the satisfaction for our sins.” I began my spiritual journey at the cross. It’s the only place where our path crosses God’s. As Acts 4:12 says, salvation is found nowhere else.
Song: On My Cross
I’m so glad that I met God at that intersection, at the cross. The cross, though, is not the point. It is the means. I got stuck at the cross, wallowing in shame and guilt and condemnation. Thinking more about what was wrong with me than what God had made right. The cross is not the point, the point is life. And life is found in the presence of the Father. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that we could wallow in guilt. He died on the cross so that He could take us to the Father where we could enjoy relationship. He came to bring life. For me, without a meaningful personal relationship with the Father, all I was left with was church. And at church we never really talked about what was going on in our lives. We talked about those who lived in the world, and sin and the rules and we all pretended that we were okay. Perhaps you can identify with me as I sat in church each week. Alone, ashamed… hiding.
Song: Stained Glass Masquerade
Confession is the path to wholeness. The sin and wounds that I wallowed in and kept hidden from everyone was complicated by abuse that I had suffered. Abuse which led to gender confusion and sexual addiction. I felt like something was wrong with me. I took my identity from my sin and wounds. I was a failure, a loser, a pervert. A deep sense of shame hung over me like a cloak. I began to work hard to get rid of that cloak and to prove that this identity was not true. I graduated from high school at 16, married at 19, graduated from college and was ordained to ministry at 20 years old. I needed to prove that I was okay and I was proving it through religious performance. The pressure of performance began to take its toll on my health and my family and I turned to my addiction for relief. The shame of addiction pushed me harder into performance. Finally I was so tired of this cycle that I just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. I became suicidal was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. I lost my ministry, my health and nearly lost my family. Then, at my lowest point, God surprised me. My experience was exactly like the experience of the prodigal son. When I turned back to God, he didn’t reject me, he wasn’t ashamed of me or disappointed in me. He ran to me. He embraced me with a love that I had never experienced before. It is this love that has defined my life ever since. Imagine the God the Father, the creator of the universe running to you, pursuing you for a relationship.
Song: When God Ran
In the Father’s embrace there is forgiveness, freedom, wholeness, grace and true identity. He wrote our story so He decides who we are. In His arms, I’m not a loser. I’m a precious son. I’m chosen. I’m accepted. I’m righteous. He invited me to embrace the life that I was always meant to live. To live out of my heart and my true self because now I know who I am. John 1:12 says that if you have received Christ, you are a precious child of the Father. Regardless of any ongoing sin struggle, that is who you are.
Song: Who Am I
This new experience of relationship with God starts at the same intersection that I had been stuck at all of these years. Because relationship with God begins at the cross. It’s the cross that brings forgiveness, healing and freedom. It’s the cross that urges us on toward the Father. The difference is that now the focus shifts from the sin that He bore to the grace that He offers. Grace is the only path that leads to the Father, the only way that leads to life. So the way to life is still the cross.
Song: It’s Still the Cross
Can you hear the voice of the Father? He invites us. Come unto me, all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to perform. Just rest in Him.
Song: In the Calm
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