I am not the same person I was ten years ago.
I was hiding in the heavy shadows of mistakes, lies, and doubt. I felt trapped in the decisions I had made for myself, and I didn’t think there was any way I was ever going to change. But something did change in me. In fact, everything changed.
Growing up in a Christian home with two loving parents, I was very familiar with the concept of sin. I understood that sin is basically the idea that a moral wrong is wrong, not just because a bunch of people decided it so, but because it goes against God himself. I wanted to make my parents happy, I wanted to make God happy, but I also wanted to feel accepted by those around me.
This began a long pattern of a double life. I wanted a relationship with the Jesus I grew up learning about, but I had no intention of actually obeying anything he taught when he walked the earth.
I internalized any struggle I was walking through and hid it from all of my friends. I lied to my parents about what I did on the weekends. Outwardly, I had it all together, but guilt and shame were feasting on the faith I had in Jesus.
Ten years ago, I was good at lying, I was anxious, and I was isolated. Today, I am walking in the freedom of an open and honest life. I lay my anxieties down every morning, and I am fully known by friends and family. What changed?
After graduating college, I found myself in a room full of girls I barely knew at a Bible study. Each girl shared their darkest secrets and their drunken mistakes. In my eyes, they were so incredibly brave, and the craziest thing stood out to me… No one seemed appalled or uncomfortable by the confessions being shared.
The words that came out of the leader’s mouth at the end of the night rocked me:
“This is what it looks like to be fully known and fully loved. And this is how God loves us every day.”
I knew that God had never stopped loving me, even in my darkest moments, but it was all head knowledge. If I was being honest with myself, the thought of being fully known freaked me out. I had always hidden the ugly parts of my heart from others and the idea of sharing EVERYTHING was downright terrifying. But the more these girls talked about their pain, the more I began to think that it wasn’t as scary as I had once believed.
My heart started racing. It was time for me to test this “fully known, fully loved” theory out for myself. As I began to speak, I was shocked to hear myself say things out loud that I only ever thought to myself for years. When I was done spilling my guts on the floor, I was immediately met with hugs, with encouragement, love, and grace.
I got in my car to drive home, alone with my thoughts, and alone with God. I was free for the first time in a long time. Free from lies. Free from fear.
I still remember the exact intersection I was stopped at when I closed my eyes and actually felt the nearness of God. Peace washed over me and these words were whispered to my soul, “Caitlin, I don’t love you anymore or any less than I did when you were five years old. You are my daughter. I made you. I will always love you.”
I had read about this unconditional love in the Bible plenty of times (like this verse, for example), though thanks to his perfect timing and amazing grace, it finally made its way to my heart that night. To my surprise, I didn’t spontaneously combust when I unveiled the secrets I held onto for far too long. Quite the opposite happened, I felt even more loved by God than I did before.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
He loves me no matter what. When he sent his Son Jesus to die for me on the cross, he knew that I was going to shout his name from the rooftops, and then swiftly deny him by refusing to obey his teaching. He knew that I was going to hide in the dark with my sin, shame, and guilt. But. He. Still. Died. For. Me.
I can confidently say that I am closer to God today than I ever have been in my life. But the thing that got me to this point, and what has kept my relationship with him strong, was not me striving to be a good person. It wasn’t some weekend retreat or the latest self-help book from the most popular Christian author. It was staring my sin in the face, confessing it out loud, and then experiencing Jesus’s love for me.
His love is what changes people. Pure and simple. If we can keep our eyes set on what Jesus did for us on the cross every single day, and continuously walk in the light, confessing our sins and receiving his grace daily, then we can actually know him and taste the goodness and the mercy that he offers to every single person, no matter their past, every single morning.
If you’ve never really experienced what forgiveness and grace can feel like when you truly confess, I invite you to try it. You can talk with God right now and confess to him who you are and what you’ve done. Ask him to forgive you. And trust him to actually do it. We also have free Live Second coaches who’d love to help you through the process. They can talk with you personally or connect you with an online group of others who are looking for this same freedom.