He was one of the first friends I made in college. We bonded over our love for partying and he appreciated my desire to fit in as “one of the guys.” For two years, I fully embraced that identity, ‘passing’ with flying colors. I was invited to all the exclusive hangouts, showing up in sweat pants and fraternity t-shirts that only girlfriends were allowed to wear. I was the sought-after but could-never-have friend of the boys. Or at least, that was the facade I tried to keep. However, the more I bought into that identity, the more I began to slip behind the scenes. No one really knew—besides him. He saw every detail of who I was and what I was hiding. He knew every dark and disturbing piece of my life. I did a good job of hiding my brokenness from the world by covering up the things I participated in, the walks of shame, and many other things I don’t remember.
Jesus met me in the winter of my junior year and I embarked on a new journey of learning who God is and what that might mean for my life. My friendship with this boy naturally fell to the wayside, as did many of my other relationships. A year after graduation, my life took a huge pivot. I joined a small group, started building new relationships with believers, and was all-around a new creation.
One evening, my friend and I reconnected when I invited him to church. I wanted so badly for him to know Jesus the way I had grown to know Him. He accepted the invitation and we met in the parking lot, said our hellos, and headed for the front door. As we approached, he spoke:
“I’ll show these people who the real Amy is.”
Even as I type those words, almost five years later, I feel a weight on my chest. I mustered up an anxious laugh and replied, “They already know who I am.” A lot has changed since that moment: God has healed me, grown me, and pursued me in ways too rich and numerous to express in just one article; but those words—“the real Amy”—still taunt me today. One single phrase that sums up both the consequence of my sin and Christ’s redemptive love for me.
WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS
I was saved with a year and a half left of college. The faithfulness of my older brother who invited me to his church during winter break was the catalyst for my salvation. The remaining time at school was tough. I returned to sorority life without a discipler and without a solid gospel-centered church. To say I stumbled my way through those months is an understatement. Yet even in my struggle, God was gracious and His hand was all over me and the story He was writing through me. When I think about my testimony now, this is what reigns true: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
One of the biggest consequences of sin is the memory of it. I have seasons when dreams are saturated with pieces of my past, empty life. I wake up wondering where I am, afraid to see who is lying next to me. It doesn’t take much to thrust me back to a place of shame and I forget who I am. In those moments I ask myself, “Am I Amy-an-enemy-of-God or Amy-a-child-of-God? Which life am I waking up to?”
Remembering God’s love for me heals these wounds. When I turned my back on God, His love prevailed. When I was far from obedient and faithful, He sent His only Son to die on my behalf. His love has broken through my chains of sin. Who I was before Christ has been redeemed and I have been made new.
To the boy outside my church, this is what I wish I had said: “The gospel changes everything.” The good news wasn’t just for me, it was waiting for him, too. I realize now his facade wasn’t much different from my own. I knew his struggle. I felt it deeply. Paul wrote, “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:19-21). How I wish my friend knew the depth of love Christ has for him!
NO LONGER CONDEMNED
The problem with memories and dreams is they leave us feeling out of control. It seems as though there is nothing we can do to alter or halt them, they just pop up out of nowhere. And while we can’t completely control them, what we participate in and what we absorb has a deep, penetrating effect on our hearts and minds. For the same reason we guard against sinful music or movies, so too can our past leave a mark on the limited workings of our mind.
But our story doesn’t end there. It doesn’t even begin there. The truth is, when we are redeemed by the blood of Christ, we are a new creation. Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). The word ‘therefore’ is in reference to the preceding seven chapters of Romans, where Paul laid out the undeserving and astounding truth of our salvation on the basis of God’s overwhelming grace, not works.
Through grace by faith in Jesus Christ there is no condemnation, because Christ paid the penalty for all of our sin—past, present, and future. We are no longer held accountable. We are positionally righteous in the eyes of the Lord because He sees us through His one and only Son, our Lord and Savior.
This is the only healing mechanism for our wounds. This is the only antidote for our unwanted memories. When those words, “the real Amy,” echo in my mind, the truth I must claim is that this Amy no longer exists. I am a new creation and my heart has been made new. While I still am not perfect, I am no longer condemned.
This is the beauty of grace. It is complete. It is not less condemnation—it is no condemnation. We are not merely improved—we are transformed. The blood of Christ paid our debt, our sin no longer has a hold on us. These marks left behind from the sins in our past are not marks of shame; but marks of grace. They tell a story of redemption and undeserved mercy from our Father.
We may not be able to completely silence the consequences of our sin, but we can submit them unto God. We can lay them down at the cross. That means when I wake up in terror, wondering which life I’m in, I pray. When random memories flash like a slideshow in my mind while driving to the grocery store, I pray. When I hear a song and a face immediately pops in my head, I pray.
If the blood of Christ merely improved our character, we would be forever lost in the depths of our brokenness. It would mean failure as we unintentionally relive scenes from our past. It would mean constant fighting to earn love or repay all the wrongs we’ve committed. But if the blood of Christ transforms us, we are forever covered by the cross. Those moments of memory or consequence are not our identity. We do not have to prove anything, we simply get to praise God for the redemption He’s given us and ask Him for His truth to calm our anxious soul.
The consequences for our sin hurt, but they are temporary. One glorious day we will be completely and ultimately free of our fallen nature, resting in the presence of God. This living hope defeats and blots out our shameful memories, redeeming and restoring the consequence, inviting a new way of life.
The “real Amy” is forgiven. And that forgiveness covers you, too.
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