My Post Salvation Story: A Lesson about Love
By Ashlee Nelson
Many of you know my testimony. It truly is a glorious story of God’s great grace and crazy, CRAZY, devoted love and sovereignty. But that is not what I want to focus on. If you want to know more, please ask! Until then, I hope you’ll settle for the cliff notes version: broken home, countless moves, random religions, bad choices, faith in everything but God.
While difficult to summarize, my life before Christ isn’t what I want to share.
What I want to talk about is what happened after my first altar call—and don’t be fooled, there were many. I was 17 and about 81 pounds — basically dying from an eating disorder that started when I was about 13. This might sound crazy but until that moment, I really didn’t see an eating disorder as wrong. I had a 4.2 GPA, volunteered for every event, obeyed my parents, and was pretty happy despite the craziness of my home life. Then I was invited to church and on that rainy spring day in Chicago, God quite literally gripped me and opened my eyes to the sorry state of my soul. Then, I was miraculously changed and completely fine the next day!
Free? No way.
Not even close.
While salvation doesn’t promise sinlessness, I was a bold renegade for most of my Christian walk. Someone who went to church, read my Bible, and tried to pursue God, but was quick to betray Him. My allegiance was torn in two. I was lukewarm, white washed, and still very much degenerate.
Little did I know my relationship with the Lord began in a very unhealthy way, a way that my performance-based, perfectionist self really liked. You see, my first request from God was for him to deliver me from disordered eating. While I thought I desired God above all else, what I wanted more was to be free from disordered eating. And sometimes I was. Most of the time, though, I was stuck in a sin-confess cycle. And this made me angry. It made me feel like I wasn't saved. It made me doubt and despair and drown in the deepest darkest pits.
Certainly my request was not wrong at all and something God wanted for me; however, I was actually settling for something second best.
That sounds crazy, right? Please understand, while I know God uses such strongholds to bring people to Himself, my heart was not at a place to find freedom because I started out relating to Him for the sole purpose of getting something from Him.
I idolized freedom from addiction when I should have wanted Christ.
While a very subtle desire, it really brought so much destruction. When you turn to God and seek Him only to get something (even a good thing) before being met by Christ Himself and allowing His love to transform you and direct your desires (even if it is a good thing you desire), you will always relate to Him in a warped way. Because what if it takes long? What if you struggle year after year? Is He a bad God? Are you doing something wrong? Do you not have enough faith?
Your walk becomes about you when it should be about Christ.
When I would have a good day, I “felt” God's love, but when I would fall, I felt like a failure. And, instead of being met by God's grace, I thought He was mad at me. Shame and guilt began to define my walk with God, and soon I began to deviate from the path. As a believer and a proclaimed follower of God, it wasn't long until I was abusing my body more than I ever had. Honestly, I can't blame myself. Why would anyone want to pursue a God who seems mad and angry all the time? I spent a lot of time and cried a lot of tears to figure out why. Why was I still trapped? How can someone who is apparently saved by God still continue to so willingly and boldly betray Him? Doesn't the Bible promise freedom? Doesn't God offer His joy and power?
Short answer, YES. Absolutely. However, God’s Word says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." YOU MUST DELIGHT YOURSELF IN HIM FIRST. It is there that true transformation comes. And anything else you ask Him for after this is mere icing on the cake.
Here’s the truth, what I wish I had known right from the beginning. What completely changed my life and my desires a whole 6 years after believing Jesus for salvation.
God loved me. God was with me. God's grace was there to meet me each and every time I deliberately disobeyed him. No matter how much my mind thought God hated me, that He was mad at me, that He would never forgive me, it was His love that He wanted me to know all along.
Too good to be true? Yes. Absolutely. But it is true. You guys, it is 100% TRUE. And recognizing the true love of God which is never-changing is the only way you will find freedom from any sin issue. While God wants to transform you into the image of Christ, most of all, He wants to give you Himself.
I firmly believe that Satan’s biggest weapon in the church is to cause us to deny— even downplay—God’s love. All too often we become sin-focused, self-focused, instead of looking up and fixing our gaze on Christ. After all, a good Christian prayer is, “Dear Lord, please convict me of my sin.” However, when was the last time you prayed and asked God to convict you of His love for you?
As I have been praying about what to write for this little corner of the internet, I really just need to let you know something. Listen up, please. Listen very carefully. What I’m about to share changed my entire life.
Do you know how much God loves you? How much He desires for you to know how much He loves you? He isn't mad. That wasn't your last chance. You didn't blow it. In fact, there in the depths of your shame, sorrow, depression, guilt, fear, and doubt you are closer to God's grace than you will ever know.
Did you recently fall?
It's right there in the pit that His grace shines. And God's hand is the only one strong enough to reach down and save you. To pick your face up from the mud and wipe the tears from your eyes. And if you fall again tomorrow, if you fall again in five minutes, His mercy is still there because our God doesn't change. He is loving always. His grace is never ending. It is his delight to show off His loving kindness (Mic. 7:18). And He will go to great lengths to show you how much He cares.
But you have to surrender. You have to give Him everything—every sin, every tear, every shameful moment, everything. It is there in the pit where He works mightily.
And you have to understand that true freedom and life is CHRIST ALONE. Your ability to be released from any sin issue can only come from realizing that God's love is unchanging, no matter what you have done. No matter what you will do.
He will break your chains by HIS LOVE. That is why it is called amazing grace. And once you realize the unending, unconditional love of God, you can't help but change! You can't help but find increasing freedom from sin and experience the joy that God promises. But the beauty of this is, even if this is your 112th relapse or 510th time apologizing for the same thing, His love is constant even if you never change.
Because it is not about you!
But I promise, once you realize the love of God and live your live as a beautiful, loved, cherished, righteous daughter of the King, you will change. Maybe it will happen overnight. Praise God for that! It might also be slow...
Whatever the case, know that God loves you. He loves you so dearly, tenderly, and deeply.
Ashlee is deeply in love with Jesus, her husband, Chicago, and all things chocolate covered. In addition to getting her masters in biblical counseling, Ashlee spends her days trying to combine her three loves of covering things with glitter, cheering on her husband as he cheers on the Packers, and traveling. Sometimes she crafts. Usually she gives up half way through to try out a new recipe while her sweet, rock star of a husband finishes the job.