I have been a pastor’s kid since I was 3 years old. Despite the horror stories I have heard—and perhaps you have, too—of pastor’s children being the most dysfunctional and rebellious of them all, I seemed to have escaped all such “really bad” things.
After all, I didn’t drink, sneak out of the house or smoke. I didn’t kiss boys or secretly date them behind my parents’ backs. So compared to many unbelievers and carnal Christians out there, I was doing pretty well.
So I thought.
But then why did I find that by age 12, I hated myself? If it wasn’t so bad, why did the anger, rebellion, greed and lust I participated in make me feel so guilty?
Who I Was
You see, the truth is that I was not a “good little girl.” The truth is that even though I was a pastor’s daughter, there was a darkness in my heart that began manifesting itself more profoundly by the time I was about 10. Arguments with my siblings due to my selfishness. Hurtful, bitter words. Rolling my eyes at my parents and feeling constant frustration toward them. Lustful thoughts and actions. Lying. And this list is by no means comprehensive.
In fact, I was becoming so rebellious in my attitude that my parents were seriously considering stepping down from the ministry. 1 Timothy 3:4 is pretty clear when it says an elder must “manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity” (NASB). Titus 1:6 sings a similar tune, saying that an elder’s children must “believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.”
There it was. Rebellion. Dissipation. I was disqualifying my parents from eldership because of my rebellious lifestyle and attitude.
But my parents didn’t give up on me. They fasted and prayed for me. They cried out to God on my behalf. My dad starting spending more time with me—to the point of taking me with him on the majority of his errands. Joy.
Though I didn’t recognize it at the time, it was in that season that my guilt began being too much for me. It drove me to Jesus. I still have a letter I wrote to Him. In the first half, one sentence reads:
Lord, I want to want You, but I don’t want You yet. Please. Change my heart.
The very same day, God answered my prayer. I finally started to get it: Jesus died for me.
What He Did for Me
The cross took on new meaning for me.
It was no longer solely an external fact I believed to be true (something even many Christian churches are beginning to lose sight of!) or a distant, abstract concept. It was true. It was real. Jesus wasn’t just my cultural label anymore; He was the only hope I had. I needed Him badly.
I finally became a participant in the story of the gospel of grace. The one and only God, who created the world in perfection, was so holy that no sinful thing could remain in His presence. And I sinned. I disqualified myself. I couldn’t be with Him, no matter how much I may have wanted to.
But God wanted my relationship with Him to be healed so much that He laid aside His glory and unlimited powers in order to become like me, a human with physical limitations, subject to temptation.
He lived a perfect life, something I couldn’t do (none of us can!), and then sacrificed His body on the cross. While He was on the cross, all of the sin I had committed—with all of the guilt, perversity and shame associated with it—was directed at Him. The Father unleashed onto Jesus all of the anger, hatred and punishment that my sin truly deserved.
Around this time, I began to feel something beyond mere guilt over bad things I’d done or fear that people would find out. For the first time, I began to feel genuine repentance. I felt sorry to God for sinning against Him. I was appalled at how ugly my sin was. It was the kind of repentance that leads you to kneel before Jesus, weeping and speechless, wishing He was there physically so you could at least kiss His feet out of gratitude as the sinful woman had in Luke 7. I hated my sin, and I loved Jesus. I loved that He saw how hideous my sin was and yet chose to die in my place so I could be forgiven. My relationship with God was reconciled. I was His child!
He met there, in all my brokenness. Brokenness—the result of my pride and rebellion—was swallowed up in the tenderness of His love. I knew I belonged to Him. Forever.
He Changed Me!
He became my best friend. I could spend hours with Him—talking about what was going on, singing to Him, reading the Word with Him, asking Him to fulfill His will in my life and in the world.
Suddenly, I didn’t want to live in my grime anymore. I hungered for righteousness. I desired purity. I yearned for truth. I began reading and studying the Word every chance I got. And the more I read it, the more I hungered to be holy.
My life changed. I prayed. I begged God to make me like Him. Certain changes didn’t happen as quickly as I would have liked—battling the flesh and changing old habits can sometimes be an arduous process. Some things God plucked out of my life immediately! But other weeds’ roots went so deep that it’s been taking years to rid my garden of them. But God hasn’t given up on me, and I won’t either.
He changed my standards. He began transforming my desire to be popular into a desire to please Jesus, even if people thought I was weird. I started wanting to tell everyone about Jesus and how
I couldn’t enjoy certain TV shows anymore. Watching sin on TV just wasn’t pleasurable to me anymore. Certain friendships that attracted me toward worldly things—that is, friendships based on my desire to be popular or accepted by my peers—began to just feel… weird.
And, the strangest of all, God began putting something new in my heart: love. Love filled my heart more and more, quite a contrast to my attitudes before.
But my revelation of Christ and the gospel didn’t end there. Oh dear, far from it. In my enthusiasm to be clean and live for Jesus, I began to draw from the knowledge I inherited from the world. Me. My strength. My effort. More and more Christ has revealed to me over the years what His grace really means. What holiness really means. I’ll be honest, I don’t yet fully understand. But I’m desperate to know.