Below is a story from my dear friend Ruth — who was practically perfect and completely miserable.  I can identify with this Salvation Story, and I’m so grateful that God does not only save us from our sin.  He saves us from ourselves.  “For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God.  If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it?? (Galatians 3)

As my teenage son played his guitar in our living room, leading the family in worship songs this Good Friday night, I had fallen to my knees. Face on the floor I sobbed “Help me” over and over again. I actually did not know what was wrong with me. I just knew I was miserable. But why? Here I was, the admirable mother of eight fine children. I was homeschooling them all, of course, and managing a small business in addition to my homemaking responsibilities (which included 3 acres and a barn full of animals), and we were respected leaders in the local church. I had been married over 20 years, we were financially stable, and our children were healthy. Yet, I had never acknowledged that I was hiding. I had no clue about who I was, and despite my extensive Biblical and doctrinal knowledge, I did not know God. I knew ABOUT him. I was content to wear the mask of the amazing Proverbs 31 woman. I had figured out Christianity, and decided it wasn’t that great.  But I was trapped in keeping up appearances.

That night, (while confessing the truth behind the mask) Jesus held me in His arms and put my head to His chest. I knew He had saved me. I couldn’t explain it, didn’t hear any actual voice, but nothing has been the same since then. It was my road to Damascus. I resonate with the apostle Paul and identify myself as a recovering Pharisee. Like Paul, I thought I was a perfect example of fidelity to God. I followed the rules outwardly better than anyone I knew – practically sinless! And I was miserable, drinking (lots of) wine every night to numb the inward pain and loneliness. I was a whitewashed tomb. I was the harlot. I needed a savior.

Actually, after that night I did spend the next six months drinking too much. But it was a time of celebration for me, nonetheless. God chose to release me first from religion and legalism. Until that burden was lifted I could not find freedom in any other area of my life. It was the first time I truly believed that grace was “Love God and do what you want.” And I realized that what I wanted to do was mostly good. I certainly hurt fewer people under this philosophy than I had as a Pharisee! I had a glorious summer of freedom, which included leaving our stifling, legalistic church. I had a friend question my salvation, which I thought ironic since I felt I had just been saved. I freaked out a few people!

I was officially “saved” at a YoungLife meeting when I was 15. But I lived the next couple decades in hell – rebellious and finding joy in sex, drugs, (alcohol) and rock & roll. Then when I had kids I decided I better clean up my act and became a “holy Jane”. It’s funny how both of those lifestyles are rooted in hiding from God and other people. If I had died, would I have spent eternity in hell? No, the end of the story was already written. What is “saved” anyway? Jesus saved me, is saving me, and will save me. I just realized I can walk in that salvation any time I choose to love Him rather than making life work on my terms.

I did eventually admit I was an alcoholic, and have been sober for six years now. A couple years after my Good Friday experience, even sober for awhile, I stumbled bedraggled and late (battling a blizzard that personified the internal struggle) into Sharon’s office. Again, I was miserable and did not know why. I continue to crack open my story and realize that the truth really does set me free. Rather than maintaining numbness I have chosen to feel deep grief and profound joy.
So I see the rhythm of life where we struggle to see a point to life, we hit the dark night of the soul, and then we rejoice in our salvation. Over and over again, like a yoyo in the hand of a man walking upstairs. Ultimately, I see that my salvation stories are growing a place in my heart to enable me to love God and others more deeply. But my Damascus Road experience is when life went from black and white to color.

“Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin?  Was it by working your heads off to please God?  Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you?” (Galatians 3)