In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in One God Amen!
Sin is permanent, a forever reminder of your past and the mistakes you have made. The past week, on the commemoration of our Lord Jesus Christ’s birth, I too had the opportunity to be reborn. By his grace, forgiveness, and endless compassion, I was able to erase my past and write a new beginning and chapter for myself. On January seventh, I received the precious gift of Jesus Christ’s blood and flesh. A sinner like me was so blessed to receive such a Holy gift. This gift is unlike any other present I have ever been given. It made me feel clean and gave me serenity. When my confessional father told me, “All your sins are forgiven,” it was as if a load of heavy luggage was taken off my back. I felt so grateful and truly thankful to get a chance to start over.
Everything that lead up to the moment of my confession was a journey of confusion, pride, ignorance, feelings of not belonging, and extreme shame. I was never meant to go off the rails. I grew up in a typical Tewahedo home, with parents who believe in God and who followed the spiritual practices. I can’t say they had a deep understanding of the rituals, but I can say with certainty that they were willing to do everything God commanded without a question. They had the spirit of obedience, they believed in God and his every word. As a little girl, from this type of home, I followed my parents. I fasted all the seven fasts, prayed before and after meals, and attended church every Sunday. To me, it was a daily routine, I did it because my parents did. Even though I didn’t understand these spiritual rituals I was performing, I had a faint idea that it must be pleasing to God or that’s how one gains God’s love. My parents who couldn’t teach me the doctrine of my religion or answer my questions, did, however, instill in me fear of God. That was the premise of my faith. I grew up understanding God in that framework. God was the man in the sky who loved me and someone I should fear. To outsiders, I was quote in quote religious. For me, this was a conflicting assumption because I didn’t know what it entailed. Over time, I became accustomed to the name because I realized it was something positive. I started thinking that I was God’s favorite, I became an entitled brat. I took God’s love as a given and saw myself from an elevated place. But this wasn’t worst of my sins.
Although I viewed myself as God’s favorite and was judging others from the perception of myself as a “good Christian,” I never felt content. There was always a void that needed filling, a feeling of isolation and loneliness. I felt unloved and was always searching for something I couldn’t recognize. In my moments of confusion and feelings of not belonging, I got caught in the waves of adolescence. I made friends with the wrong crowd and pursued them to fill the void of not belonging. I started participating in so-called “fun activities,” which I knew were sins. Nonetheless, I ignore my sense of morality because I had an urgency to fit in. I thought if I fit in with these people, I would feel loved and whole. I was wrong, the more I sinned the more lonely and unworthy I felt. But there was no turning back because doing so meant admitting I was wrong and I was too prideful to admit my flaws. While all this was happening, I was still trying to maintain the image of a religious girl. I could not afford to be seen by others as a fraud even though that’s what I was. Wearing the whitest clothes and with my head covered, I went to church and engaged in polite spiritual conversations. Pretending to be someone else was the worst part of everything I was going through. It made me feel completely empty. Soon, I stopped going to church and pretending. I decided to make my sins apparent to the world. I started drinking and partying publicly, got into a relationship with two people at the same time and engaged in sexual acts, which lead me to been sexually abused. I got countless piercings in my body and a tattoo to top it off.
I became a prisoner of my own sins. As sad as it sounds, I was addicted to sinning. I could no longer account for myself or my sins because I didn’t have self-agency. This was my final point of despair, defeated and hopeless, I contemplated suicide. I could no longer bear the feeling of unworthiness but I was too ashamed to turn to God. I cried and cried because I sinned against God and now death was my only option. On the third day my mourning, I got a call from a friend whom I haven’t spoken in four years. She called to tell me one of our mutual friends is in a mental institution because she tried to kill herself. In my shock, I couldn’t utter a word. My friend preceded to say, “what a pity, she was such a composed person.” That was my wake-up call. I couldn’t believe that’s all she had to say about our friend who almost killed herself. Hanging up the phone, I decided I was not going to kill myself to be pitted by others, instead I am going to take proactive actions. I got up from my bed, opened the blinds, made my bed, took a shower, and went to the nearby church. On the entrance of the Ethiopian Saint Mary church, I kneeled in front of God and poured my soul out. I told Him where I been and where I want to go. I prayed for forgiveness of my sins and guidance to His path. When I went home, I asked my deacon friend to find me a priest, that was the beginning of the day my relationship with God changed. Through whatever means possible, even an attempted death of an old friend. God made sure He sent me a message that would get through my hard head. He knew I would never stand to be pitied by anyone even at my lowest point. I am sure along the way God sent me many signs to redirect me from my path but I ignored all of them. Don’t be like me, don’t force God to cause tremendous events in order to save you from your own self-destruction.
It took me a year to get to the glorious moment of receiving God’s holy gift. I had to go through many steps of purification. I started from the beginning and learned about God and our religion. I fasted, did spiritual exercises given by my confessional father, listened to many sermons, read the Bible, and prayed a lot. In the process of my reeducation, I found my identity in Christ. All this time, I was searching for something that was already there. I struggled so much because I forgot Whose I was. I am God’s child, therefore, always loved. I didn’t need to search for love, it was always there, I just had to receive it. When I partook in the holy communion, I felt His love. My spirit was whole and complete because God dwelled in me.
Now, I am here content with myself and sure of who I am, but my body is a reminder of my past. The holes from my piercings, my tattoo, and loss of my purity will forever remain visible. Perhaps the worst reminders are the memories I can’t forget. Sins are permanent when we sin we only hurt ourselves and create memories that will forever haunt us. Make me your lesson, always remember your identity in Christ and how much you are loved by Him. Don’t seek love elsewhere and fall in permanent sins you can’t erase.
Glory to God.