I had no stark-raving mad teenage rebellion. No disgraceful rampages against my parents or authority. Nothing so shocking to write home about. I was the kid who would sit at summer camp and listen to testimony after testimony, and wonder if I had one at all.
Jesus didn’t save me from drugs or sex or a sordid past. I asked the question, time and time again,
What did he save me from, exactly?
“Tell your testimony, Andrea,” someone would say and I could give a curt, Jesus protected me from the mess, story, when really I didn’t realize that I was running headfirst into a self-righteous, works-driven mess that would alter the course of my life forever.
I didn’t understand that sin isn’t always something you do. It’s in our bones and blood like a parasitic disease, always hungry, always destroying, always hunched on the quiet outer limits. My pastor says it like this — our hearts have a sewage system running through them. Sewage is coursing through all of us. For some of us, the pipes burst. The mess is awful. But it’s still the same sewage that runs through the “good girl’s” heart.
I was the “good girl” and my pipes were about to burst open.
I sauntered into my 20s naive, bold, arrogant and in the Christian church public eye. A touring worship leader and musician, speaker at youth events, mentor of young girls, writer of songs and private as all get out, I had a great exterior. But internally, I was dying. Dying of trying to be good. Dying of asking all the questions but not wanting answers. I was racing toward burnout and did my best to always put my best foot forward. I was 21 when a 20 year old friend I admired and loved died of cancer. And I screamed hell at God from a dark Nashville hotel room. I weighed His will and decided it came up wanting. And in those short few weeks, I found God to be a cheat and a swindler, and tossed my trust of him out the window.
One year later at 22, I laid in a strange hotel room bed, and I realized that everything I had known about myself up to that point was broken.
No, not just broken. Gone.
It was as though I had crossed some dark threshold, and the former me was shouting at the other end of a long, twisted hallway. I didn’t know if I’d ever see her again. I had run off with a married man, broken the trust of my family, lost my ministry, and disappeared with him into a dark spring night. Me, the “virgin protected by Jesus” story girl, was now falling off the edge of a cliff from which I knew that even if Jesus did once care for me, he certainly didn’t or couldn’t anymore.
As my phone rang relentlessly for those who sought to find me, I cried and wished I knew how to be a better person. I cried because I knew I had gone too far. I cried because I was laying in the bed of my own sin, and I felt trapped. I felt sick to my stomach and tried to not give the man in the room a hint that I felt like I was dying. If it’s true that God lets us taste our own sin and feel the emptiness of a life without Him, I felt the weight of it in that hotel room.
People in full-time ministry shouldn’t have illicit affairs.
A virgin doesn’t throw away her pride in one night.
The good girl doesn’t do bad things.
But, oh, they do. She does. And I did.
I tell people the moment I had an affair was not when I kissed a married man. Or when I drove away from my best friend’s house, in spite of those begging me not to go.
The moment I had an affair was when I didn’t turn my car around. A friend of mine listened to me on the phone as I confessed to her the stir in my heart.
“You need to turn your car around,” she said. “You need to go home. Don’t go down this road.”
And all the time, while I helplessly and selfishly ran headfirst into an affair, Grace was already running headfirst toward me.
[This is part one in a three part series. I'll continue here at Deeper Story next month.]