Forgive me Father for I have sinned. My last confession was….
These words were earnestly uttered when I was 13 years old. I had been asking the priest for forgiveness since I was in 2nd grade. The usual penance was Hail Mary’s and Our Fathers, then our sins would be forgiven.
There was no absolution for me that day though–just condemnation.
I was told by the priest to quit Catholic school because I was wasting my parent’s money and taking up space for people who belonged there.
This was the death of my religion, and my faith that I belong to God and am his child. I recall trembling as I put on my mask to hide my shame before I opened the confessional door. I walked to the pew facing the altar where the OTHERS were. I knelt there and looked up at the crucifix I had looked at my entire life and was keenly aware that everything had just changed for me. I no longer belonged to the group that I was born into. I was anonymously kicked out of the fold.
I was a sheep with no herd or shepherd. I had been left alone to deal with the wolves.
I could not believe that my traitorous heart could lead me to hell.
It took 27 years to resurrect my relationship with Jesus, and 10 years more to take a serious look at that monumental event. I can now see the devastating blow to my heart. The enemy was on the prowl that day, and he sought to devour me. I could not deal with the pain of what had become my life, so I went to addiction for relief and almost lost my life several times. My new identity with death fit what I felt inside. My soul was shattered. The grace of God kept me alive in spite of myself, and Jesus wooed me back into his loving embrace. He did not leave me a religious orphan.
Over time my realization of God’s grace has incrementally increased, although it is still a struggle 41 years later.
The enemy is still whispering in my ear that I am not worthy of grace. Most days I rebuke the accuser and his relentless quest to keep me an orphan from God. He sneaks in through the back door when my guard is down. He knows my wounds and how to get to my heart. The assault is through those things that give the most love and meaning to my life: my deep relationships and the ministry that I am involved in.
My feelings of unworthiness taunt me when I am out of my comfort zone and following the call of my Savior for my kingdom purpose.
The snake is coiled and ready to strike to render me useless and incapable of my calling. I am aware of his objective to keep me small and damaged so the glory that I was called to exhibit will not be displayed.
I am learning how to fight this feeling of inadequacy, and God always gives a glimpse of His love for me when I need it most. The defiance that was present when I was 13 and refused to follow the priest’s command to leave school is still present today. I might take a few steps back but I refocus and move toward the abundant life. I keep leaning into the Lord and He helps me to keep my eyes above the waves, for I am His and He is mine.
Gayle Manske lives in Racine, WI with her husband of 25 years and twin 15 year old boys and a goldendoodle. Gayle finds life worth living from her relationship with the Prince of Peace. Since her journey began with Jesus, he continues to open her eyes to true abundant life.