Jennifer Camp, co-founder of Gather Ministries, and author of Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California and now lives in the busy Bay Area with her husband and three kids. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, Jennifer J. Camp .You can connect with Jennifer on both Facebook and Twitter. She would love to have you join her there.
Do you think the consequences of my mistakes are punishment by God?
If I believe I’ve heard God speak to me, and I ignore him, is that the reason bad things happen in my life?
But what about people who don’t yet know God–and they live far away from Him, independent, alone? Does God stand back, wait for them to turn? Do the repercussions of one’s behavior ripple from generation to generation? Does this sin filter through relationships, through family ties?
I listen to these questions, and I feel hot all over, my heart beating fast.
* * *
I am in a room full of women, listening to their life stories. We are sharing regrets and wounds, questions about God and about sin. It is a space both holy and beautiful, as well as desperate and sad. One woman’s story is so different from another’s. One woman made one choice. This woman made another. One woman believes God is with her. Another believes God is not.
My mind is spinning. I think about what I know about God and how I know what I know. Some things I know from the Bible. Other things I know from recognizing my story–seeing how I’ve learned, from personal experience, that separation from God brings only pain.
I consider the questions these woman ask. Yes, sin has consequences. We make choices towards relationship with God, and we make choices away from Him.We recognize pieces of His love for us, and we also reject it, turn our back on Him, believing we are the only god in our lives that we need.
I think of the God of Eve, who created her to walk with Him, beside Him, with nothing to hide. And then how she questioned Him, how she thought maybe her ideas for doing things were better than His.
Sin is what separates us from the Father, although that was never His intention. That was never His plan. He does everything to let us choose Him and find our way back to Him.
Are we finding our way back?
Our God is a Father of unity, not separation. Our God is a Father of joy and hope, not bitterness and pain. It is sin that causes disunity from God, nothing else.
I listen to these women’s stories and think about how no matter one’s life experience, each moment is an opportunity of choice–love God or not. And when something gets in the way of one’s loving God, it is the sin that has caused the separation. And God is bigger than any sin or any mistake or any regret. Yes, there may be consequences of sin–and it is our bearing of these consequences that lets the old self die so that Christ in us can live anew.
In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4: 22-24).
I know first hand the death of old self, again and again.
Over the years He shows me more of who He is. He shows me where He is now, and He shows me where He was in my past:
I know the God who held me by the hand, as a child, before I realized He was there. I know the God to whom I prayed night after night, scared that one of my family members would die, because of smoking.
I know the God who tickled my face with gentle wind as I ran through rows of almonds, barefoot, with our dogs and cats chasing me. With Him, I felt the squish of wet mud between my toes, the crunch of gravel underfoot in roaring rainwater-filled creek.
I know the God who stood underneath the clock in the kitchen, reaching out His arms for me as voices rose. In the middle of chaos, He showed me there was a way to be whole, and okay.
I know the God who cried, underneath a leafless almond tree, as I believed I was more important than anyone, anything. Two decades later He shows me pieces of the effects of sin upon a life, the torn shreds collected, and mended and stronger now, by Him.
I know the God who rescues and takes me back to moments in my past where I have believed lies, situations where my perception of myself and the girl-woman I was made to be had been twisted. I know the God who replays scenes of my memory with a new lens. He wants to show me where He was present, whether or not I ever realized it, the whole time.
I know the God who gives second chances, who gives a new way to see the world. I know a God who presses in and encourages us to die, to surrender the beliefs that cause us to feel separate from Him. I know a God who lets us feel pain and feel the results of living life without Him, if we want. And I know a God who never stops pursuing, never stops loving, even when we say we don’t want him to.
I know the God who aches for this world, for the ways His children are desperate to die and be born again.
* * *
Yes, there are consequences for sin, but Jesus doesn’t need to die again to give us life in Him. Just once. The pain of sin, the pain of our past, the pain of our present is where God comes. He refuses to ignore us. He does not turn away.
This life is hard, and it is filled with hope. This life is painful, and it is filled with healing. This life is brutal, and it is filled with beauty.
I don’t have answers, only questions. But that’s okay. I know what I know. And I will surrender the lies that come telling me my God cannot be trusted. For this isn’t head knowledge I’m talking about. It’s a condition of the heart.
This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com