The Road to Restoration

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The Road to Restoration
by Jan Pierce

Luke 3: 4-6 “As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight. Every ravine shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough roads smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” 

We believers are aware of the need to “fill the valleys and level the hills” for those who have never heard the Gospel. They may not understand God’s ways or the depth of their sin. They don’t grasp their need of a Savior. But how do we deal with long-time Christians who fall into sin?

They know better.

I’d been saved for over twenty years and my husband was a pastor. I taught Sunday School and women’s groups. I’d studied the Bible forward and backward for many years. I knew heartsickness-428103_640about sin and the wiles of the enemy.

I knew better.

But even though I knew, over the course of several months I allowed a relationship with another church leader to go beyond the bounds of friendship. I moved into a secretive and “romantic” relationship with a man not my husband. And though the relationship never became sexual, my heart was divided.

We’d been friends for years, enjoyed social times as couples, gone on leadership retreats, worked side by side to build a church. We’d even lived with the family for a time while we were in the process of buying a home. We were friends. We loved their children and they loved ours.

I sinned.

Once the relationship became common knowledge we were required to go before the church and confess. We were not allowed to speak to one another again. He lost his leadership position and moved away. I lost my good reputation.

Although all of this took place over twenty years ago, some of the lessons learned are as nature-669592_640fresh today as they were then. I learned first-hand about ways to minister to those caught in the web of sin. I learned what helps and what doesn’t.

My Father God sent Jesus to die for my sins. He wanted me restored to Him. And I was. But as I look back on that time I realize we Christians often don’t know how to love someone back on their feet. We mess it up.

From My Perspective:

  • Though I’d behaved in sinful ways I was shocked at my own behavior.
  • I didn’t expect anyone to overlook my sin or condone it.
  • I was numb both in mind and spirit—it felt as if I had watched another person’s behaviors.
  • Long lists of scriptures handed to me by well-meaning believers were not helpful.
  • Notes and letters of condemnation and shame broke me further.
  • At the most horrible time of my life most friends and acquaintances had no idea how to help. They disappeared.

Over many months and years I received my healing. I traced the roots of my unhealthy need for approval that led to attention seeking. I came to understand some of the “ministry” I received had not been at all helpful, though well-intentioned.

How can we do better? How can we help to “make the crooked straight and the rough roads smooth?”  These are the actions and behaviors that brought healing and eventual wholeness to my heart.

Unconditional Love

While I didn’t expect or want friends to condone what I’d done, I was not able to take in corrective words at rope-1469244_640that time. I was in shock. I was grieved beyond words. I could barely get through the days—going to work, cooking meals, being me. Those who were able to reassure me of their unconditional love were like healing balm to my raw heart. One woman said, “I don’t care what you did, I love you anyway.” Another stood in church beside me and read a verse of God’s redemption with a strong, firm voice. A man I barely knew wrote me a letter telling of the struggles in his own marriage and sending encouraging words filled with love. I’ll never forget those who acknowledged that I’d fallen, but loved me until the day I could stand again.

The Gift of Time

Because we were in positions of leadership, everyone involved went through painful transitions. We lost our leadership positions. We eventually lost our church body. We were like lepers calling out “unclean.” Friends disappeared like a mist. A teacher friend once said, “Nobody loves you when you have head lice.” It was like that. Those who were willing to spend time with me, talk with me, listen and pray—they were gold.

Honesty Concerning Consequences

When sin twists its way into our lives there are dreadful consequences. There is no reason girl-517555_640to minimize them. One friend said: “It will eventually be like a broken bone that’s healed. There will always be that knit-together place,  that scar.” And he was right. The consequences were great. Innocent people were hurt. The ripples of the events traveled out to family members, friends and beyond. We lost people we loved. I had to face dark places in my own being that I’d ignored to my own hurt. To be honest, years and years have passed, but there are still awkward meetings with friends from those days—a wedding where we run into them, a funeral we don’t attend because we would run into them. It’s a sad fact that sin destroys. But…

Moving On

Praise God He sent Jesus to die for the very sins I committed. It was a long time before I healed. It took encouraging words from a new pastor who helped me get “unstuck” from shame and guilt. He offered to pray with me, counsel with me—whatever it took to regain love-699480_640my true identity as a beloved daughter of the King.

There’s a time for mourning and then there’s a time for moving on. I returned to teaching and leading women in the church. My husband and I began a ministry to Christians in India. We rejoiced that our marriage not only survived but became stronger and healthier. We counted our blessings.

John preached the message: “Repent, the King is coming.” And He did. He came and died for your sins and mine. He came to restore and heal. Let’s join hands with Him to bring restoration and hope to His people.

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homegrown-family-fun-frontToday’s children are missing out on old-fashioned unstructured creative play. They seldom run and play outdoors. They don’t spend time building forts or making mud pies. Their primary choices involve computerized screentime. While computerized games and activities can be educational, they eat up the time that would otherwise be spent in active, kid-powered play—the work of childhood. Homegrown Family Fun: Unplugged offers hundreds of ways to encourage healthy play, both indoors and out. Find this helpful family resource at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Find Jan at www.janpierce.net.

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jan-109acrop1Jan Pierce is a Christian wife, mother of two, grandmother of four little boys and a retired school teacher. She draws on her life experiences to write both fiction and non-fiction. She is the author of Homegrown Readers and the newly-released Homegrown Family Fun: Unplugged. Both  available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Find Jan at www.janpierce.net.

Fighting Back Mama Bear

About a month ago, I made a promise to you all that I would be authentic. No false superhuman Christianity acting like I had it all together. Well, today’s the day–the day when I don’t have it all together and the inside of my heart resembles a nasty old garbage can rather than the cleansed vessel it is designed to be. And as a result, my worship and prayer time has been dead. Cold. Emotionless and forced. And although I’m tempted to hide out in the shadows until this ugly monster is sufficiently tamed, authenticity and transparency doesn’t work on an agenda.

Last night at church we talked about how much deeper we feel things involving our children. We may give up our place in line or a new pair of shoes, but it feels like our world’s ended when our child is asked to do the same. Just watch the face of any parent whose seen their child drop an ice cream cone. Or even worse, watch a daddy who’s being told about a school bully. All talk of forgiveness and turning the other cheek goes flying out the window.

So that’s where I am, only God is starting to break through. He has a funny way of doing that. Of gently, yet consistently reminding me that I am the adult–the one He has chosen to train this child entrusted to my care. Not just how to make her bed or how to follow a budget, but how to live life. Most specifically, how to live the Christian life. And living the Christian life means forgiving the unforgivable, biting our tongue when we want to lash out, and demonstrating the unconditional, no-strings-attached, love of Christ.

It’s funny how much time we spend training our kids on so many inconsequentials. We’ll make sure they can catch a ball by three, can ride their bike by six, and can slam dunk by fourteen. And we’d never dream of handing them a calculus book, saying,  “Call me once you’ve figured it out.” But somehow when it comes to relationships, we think they’ve got it down. Like at twelve, thirteen–even sixteen, they’ll suddenly know how to make wise decisions and communicate effectively. But then thirty-five roles around and they’re throwing the same childish fits and pulling the same manipulative pranks we saw at twelve. But then again, if they’ve never been trained, should we really expect any different?

So that’s what I did today–I trained. And it wasn’t easy. Even though everything in me wanted to feed the bear, I fought it back and sought out my daughter. I think she’s grown to hate those, “We need to talk”, conversation starters. Almost as much as I hate starting them. Encouraging her to take the high road even if she didn’t want to, even if her heart fought against it, was even harder than fighting back my own dragon. But when she was done making that phone call we both dreaded, we were able to talk about it, with peace, knowing that God would take care of the rest.

In Kristen Heitzmann’s latest novel, Indivisible, one of the characters provides an interesting analogy. He equates our warring emotions to two wolves. One wolf is that of bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness. The other wolf is love, grace, and forgiveness. And, according to Jay, (the character who made the statement) the wolf that wins is the one you feed. How true that is! So starting today, I’m going to actively work on starving the wolf of bitterness so that my other wolf–my loving, gracious and forgiving wolf–will grow stronger. No matter how loud the mean wolf’s tummy growls. And even more importantly, I’m going to purposefully train my daughter to do the same.