By Gloria Nesloney
With my face in my hands and kneeling at the front of the altar, I covered my countenance as I was lost in my emotions. If it wasn’t for the custodians closing the church for the day and turning off the lights, I would have remained there on the floor at the altar repenting for all of my sins. Clearing my tears and regaining my bearing, I stood to prepare myself for my ride back home. That day was only one of many episodes in that I encountered the presence of the Lord touching my hard heart while I was at the altar. I didn’t want to ever leave the altar of intimacy between the Lord and me. It was a beautiful time when I would surrender, and I could feel the Lord’s embrace.
The moment of brokenness from truly repenting came to an end when I arrived at my home. I would wrestle again with the constant reminders of my sins. I would find myself stuck in bad habits that didn’t end just because I asked Jesus into my heart. For just a short time, a week would go fairly well when I did not feel trapped by the addiction I was in. I forgot about having a cleansing altar moment. Instead, I would be thankful and do a short prayer as if I was better for not sinning as terribly that week as in the past.
What changed? Why was it that when I sinned, I wanted to stay at the altar longer? When things were going great, I was okay just to give Jesus a symbolic high five, because I was glad I did better that week. I didn’t want to be a roller-coasting Christian. There was work to be done, and I wanted everything that held me back from receiving true freedom to be gone from my life once and for all. It took some time, but I learned to cling close to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Again I found myself repenting, but this time instead of the presence of the Lord that I felt before, I was frustrated because I knew I would sin again. I got up, left the altar, and went back to my seat more angry than relieved. I was stopped by an elder who noticed that I was distraught. I could sense his concern for me, but I tried my best to keep my conversation short and uninviting. That elder shared with me the words that changed my life forever. He was wise and a sage that I call upon even to this day. When he spoke, he ministered using scriptures that were apt for the moments I was experiencing. I visited the elder often and he shared what it meant to be in the presence of the Lord. Little did I know that the elder had the key to the eternal truth I needed to hear.
This elder of the church was also known for his prophetic insight and various ministries in South Texas. He spoke as one with gentle proverbs, sharing deep wells of revelation. I was intrigued by the words and life I observed. Time wasn’t important when I stayed listening to everything that was shared. He had a way to reach my heart with truth by asking questions that prompted me to ask more questions instead of finding quick-fix answers. How was I going to live this new life of serving Jesus if I was going to be living in sin too? Later, I would understand that what he was teaching me was how to follow Jesus with all of my heart no matter what situation I was in.
His first lesson shared with me was, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you, remain in my love.” With the deepest conviction, he said these were the words Jesus told him through the scripture. He began to tell me how this scripture changed his life. He told me of his testimony of how so many years ago he was a sinner, and what I was witnessing was a redeemed sinner, who clung to Jesus. The more he desired Jesus, the less he wanted to sin. Instead, he found delight in how to serve the Lord with all of his heart. I could clearly see he was telling the truth. I asked myself, “How do I ever get free from sin?”
“As the Father has loved me”... I can remember seeing pictures of my own father so many years ago holding me near him when I was an infant. His secure strong arms held my weak wiggly body. He held my head close to his chest. He provided everything I needed even if he didn’t give me everything I wanted. I can recall the numerous times he showed me he loved me when I was hurt. He made sacrifices to give me what he thought was best for me. He never told me his secret of how he loved me during my rebellious years. He loved me when I felt scared and alone. He loved me when I didn’t love myself. He loved me enough to take me back to his home when I needed a place to stay.
When I was in the fourth grade, I felt the love of my father when I had an accident that left me bleeding with a deep gash on my calf. He rushed over to care for me. He did everything he could to make sure I was not going to bleed anymore. I saw his green eyes gently tear up when he saw I was scared, but he talked to me in a tender way that calmed me. He carried my young body to the vehicle to take me to the doctor to get stitches. He carried me out of the vehicle as carefully as he could back to the house and watched me as I rested and through the healing process. I only have a reminder of a scar, but I don’t feel the pain anymore.
As a teenager, rebellion, lies, and anger welled up in me, and I let it fester and I did not tell my father. I thought I knew better for myself that it was easier to push him away rather than tell him the truth. Little did I know that my father already knew the truth, and he loved me anyway. One thing I wished I had done at a younger age was to run to my father when I needed help instead of trying to do life by myself. My independence longed for instruction, safety, and the secure arms of my father. I learned that now when I have a situation that is hard, instead of running in the other direction I run to my Father for help and counsel.
“So I have loved you”…echoed into my heart when I realized my husband, Malcolm, loved me before I really knew him. We had scheduled a time to meet each other for a casual friendly lunch out of town. I was unable to attend the luncheon because I was in the emergency room with dizzy and fainting spells. I was not able to contact Malcolm to cancel our meeting. When I was released from the hospital, I went back home and found several messages from him.
I was not in the habit of letting people know where I was or what I was doing or when I wasn’t feeling well, but I am a responsible enough person to make it to meetings on time or cancel ahead of time when I wasn’t available. I called him back. He was silent on the other side as I began to apologize for not calling him before canceling our luncheon. He thought I stood him up. That broke my heart. When I explained to him that I was at the emergency room to get treated, he expressed his concern about my total well-being. I didn’t know he loved me like that. As we married and I began to completely trust my husband to protect me, be there for me, and help me, I shared with him more about what I was going through because I could see his concern for me. Jesus loves me like that too. He didn’t want me to hide from physical, emotional, or any kind of pain. He wants me to tell him where it hurts so that He could heal me.
I started to understand that no matter if I was hurt because of something that happened to me or if it was something I was guilty of, Father God loved me, and so did Jesus. I realized how much deeper God and Jesus loved me. The most transformational moment in my life was when I read Ephesians Chapter 2. In summary what it meant for me was that even if I wasn’t remorseful, even if I was rebellious, even if I was going to try to do this life by myself, God already knew, and He loved me anyway. It wasn’t about the tears I shed that meant I was sorrowful for my actions. It wasn’t my anger that kept God from me. It wasn’t about me working my way to get to the heart of God. His love reached beyond my actions whether intentional or unintentional.
With the new revelation, I was able to catch myself drawing closer to the Lord. I cared less about wanting to sin and looking for more opportunities to please Father God. I was reading the Bible to learn about this loving God that I was experiencing. Understanding the scripture was difficult for me at the beginning, but the more I read, the more the Bible seemed to be coming alive. I was reading the scripture that seemed to go with what I was experiencing in my own life. It directly impacted my circumstances of learning to trust a Holy Father with my whole heart.
“Remain in my love”…The ride on the roller-coaster of sin came to an end. I got off the ride. I didn’t go back to the ride. I didn’t get season tickets. I didn’t desire the ride, it made me sick to even think about those days. I stopped trying to get my life right, and I learned to live for God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I needed them in my life more than anything. Surrendering and clinging to their love was the summit to victories in my life. It is not a quick visit when one remains in love, it is a constant state of being in the presence of the Lord. It was not just because I went to church that I was able to receive the Love of God. I learned that I no longer had to go to the altar to repent to feel the presence of the Lord. I can feel the presence of the Lord everywhere I go when I cling to Him.
I was learning to remain close to the Lord. If things were starting to get confusing or some of my old habits were trying to find their way back in, I called on my Father to help me. When I was in trouble, instead of hiding from my Lord, I would confess and run to Him. I had to remain in the constant knowledge that yes, God loves me and always will, but when I clung closer still, I would not be hurt or scared, I would find wisdom and sound counsel. I would be safe and find my peace. He is my hiding place and refuge when I feel alone or fearful. The solution to every one of my situations is to make sure to include God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit in my life even the smallest of decisions. Though I now know how much the elder from the church, my earthly father, and my husband love me, the Love from my Eternal Father far exceeds them all.
Clinging Tightly: When you begin to cling to Jesus, you will notice there is less room for addiction, sin, and pain.