When Evidence of Repentance is Too Little Too Late
With the type of rebelliousness sewing seeds of discord, I allowed drugs to rob me of my integrity. Caught between the life I lived and the call to follow Christ, my affections were simultaneously stirred by idol worship and Jesus. Dependent on cocaine and methamphetamine, I tried everything possible to get clean while keeping my sin in the dark. On the good days, my love for Jesus won over my love for drugs. But on the bad, I binged for months at a time sacrificing lesser loves for greater ones. Double-minded, I loved both. But even though I was stuck between two love stories, the one I knew well & the lover I didn’t, Jesus never quit inviting me into the unknown.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a little child and set him before them, 3 and said, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless you repent [that is, change your inner self—your old way of thinking, live changed lives] and become like children [trusting, humble, and forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever receives and welcomes one child like this in My name receives Me;
Matthew 18:1-5 AMP
Though the church should never tire before the sinner does, I wore mine out. I can’t tell you the day I became a Christian, but I can confidently say I began renouncing my old life by repenting of my ways and confessing Christ as Lord July 5th, 2015. Covered by the precious blood of Jesus, I got clean for seven months. Fearful of authority due to years of abuse, I allowed my past to haunt me and told no one about my former substance abuse problem.
Then, when I allowed the pressures of life to outweigh the burden of the cross, I relapsed. Though I wasn’t using regularly, old sin patterns quickly resurfaced. Nine months later, I tried getting clean cold-turkey without help. Sleeping for days at a time, and with the type of chemical imbalances causing irrational irritability, K and I began arguing. Without her knowing, she was dealing with a junkie whom no longer had his junk.
I was a monster.
Though our altercations never turned physical, they were filled with explosive and violent screaming, launched projectiles, slammed doors, and fits of uncontrollable weeping. Skirting responsibility, I still didn’t confess the reasons for my outburst. I wanted to get clean without getting honest, and therein lies the problem. Kaitlyn was dealing with someone who wasn’t the kind and loving big hearted person she fell in love with. From son of God, to addict, my descent left everyone in the dark. Within a month, our executive pastor sat us down to lovingly rebuke us. Unfortunately, I didn’t heed this as a wake up call - it got worse.
Even though I had every opportunity to confess what was really going on, I didn’t. Instead of exposing, like Adam & Eve, I covered it up. After our conversation, I tried to behave as best as I could but as many of us know - behavior modification is not heart transformation. The truth is, my heart longed for sin over the Savior.
With their best intentions, the church referred us out to a biblical counselor.
Before stepping into the counselors office, by the grace of God, I was clean for nearly two months. However, because I lied and manipulated, no one knew exactly what was going on. Within two sessions, the counselor had me recalling the atrocities of my youth. Because I elevated my pain above Jesus, I ran back to the comfort of drugs. The fear of facing my memories of sex abuse, child neglect, and attempted murder was terrifying. Because I knew drugs intimately, I trusted them over Jesus - BUT this did not sway Jesus from rescuing me. Instead of wrestling with God, I spent the next four months battling my demons.
Even in the midst of drug infused paranoia, He continued pursuing me.
By God’s grace once again, I got clean. After completing a residential rehabilitation program, the church called a meeting to sever ties with us. Ecstatic about what God had done in my life, I laid out all my sin in the open. I openly confessed and asked for forgiveness. When asking them if there was anything I could do to make up any of the hurt I caused, one of the facilitators replied, “Go somewhere else and get healthy.” While in rehab Kaitlyn and I both expressed our concerns about how the leadership was failing to meet our expectations. Because we caused discord by not communicating to the proper channels of authority, our “ownership,” was revoked. We were told not to come back and that our presence was no longer welcome. Although it appeared my drug use had little to do with our excommunication, it did. All the issues surrounding the discord were rooted in my using. #mybad
That was nearly two years ago.
Though I am healthier than I’ve ever been, I’ve used since then. Without minimizing the gravity of my sin, sometimes the way out of darkness is filled with stumbling blocks. However, with each fall I became quicker to confess - quicker to obey then quicker to repent. K and I are grateful for the church we landed at, because they have beared with us patiently. At times, they have treated us like good parents treat children. We are also grateful for the last community we called home. Because of them, our lives were forever shaped by the foundation they helped us lay. They helped equip us for ministry with hands on experience, mentors, and late night conversations built around the edification of the church.
I understand our situation is not a textbook scenario. However, we hope that one day it could be a case study of how to handle church discipline. There were a lot of moving parts, a lot of unknowns, a lot of…sin. I am thankful our old church did not allow people under their authority to continue in disobedience without consequence - that could be considered “enabling.” Looking back, I see how entitled I was. I wanted the benefits of authority without responsibility. Regardless of title, status, level of influence - as believers - we are called to confess and repent. Not with lip service, but with action. Walking with Jesus requires movement.
Through no strength of my own, there is evidence of repentance in my life. Even back then when the proverbial poo was hitting the fan, there was still evidence. But because the poo was so high, it was hard to see the details. Sin muddies the water. But because I know where I stand with God, I am confidently able to communicate the most treacherous parts of our story. In our call to become more like Christ, it shouldn’t be a great surprise when we feel betrayed by those whom we’ve walked with the longest. Judas and Jesus know this story very well. Luckily for us, Jesus offers us the opportunity to repent and follow Him no matter how far off track we may have gotten. For Jesus, there is never too little too late because He knows the motives of our hearts.
He understands addiction and bears with us patiently as we make our way out - even if we’re kicking and screaming like immature children. Even when we’re making a scene and making other people look bad. Even when we cause discord, Jesus still offers forgiveness and receives us…even when the church does not.
In Your Corner,