The more I fight this sin, the more I realize desperately I need God, and only God.  I prayed that God would grant me conviction of it at conference, and He did, but in a very different way than I expected. But his work definitely began there, and has continued just as definitely ever since.

Every day God keeps bringing something new into my life to help me deal with it/make sure I don’t forget. Went to my fellowship’s Friday praise night and  couldn’t seem to pray, so I battled it out with my Bible in hand and mental cries to God as I stared out at the street. He brought me again and again to verses that spoke directly to me – frightened me with Hebrews 12:17, speaking of Esau, “for you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears” (italics mine). He sought it diligently with tears – that’s what I was doing! And yet I wasn’t being convicted as much as I thought I should be – still the idea of my sin reminded mostly in my head, not my heart – not a heart-deep conviction. It occurred to me then for the first time that I might never attain repentance, that I would simply remain in the sin and be cast out from God forever.

Shaken up by what had happened at conference, I’d looked forward the whole week after it to finishing  REAPing(an acronym my fellowship uses, meant to stand for Review your notes, Evaluate your life, Apply, and Pray). Saturday, I finally did. Spent several hours, reading over my sermon notes and thoughts, reading again and again the Scriptures God’s called me too, praying desperately. Turned out 8 or so pages of journalling,  interspersed with Scripture. And for almost the first time began to feel a deep misery over my sin. When you read over and over again how sinful you are, at some point, God willing, the words will begin to reach you.

Conference, praise night, REAP, then church. In church yesterday, the pastor taught on Hebrews 12: 1-3(”let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”), and on sin, among other things. God’s working in my life is almost frighteningly clear. Scratch that, it is frightening.

He listed three categories of sin, and the first was as follows:

1)when we succumb to our own temptation – when we’re running the race and we bite the dust – we’re on our knees, bowed down – exactly where God wants us to be

I’ve bitten the dust. That’s exactly what it feels like. Struck down, but not destroyed. Persecuted, but not abandoned. Hard-pressed, but not yet crushed. God’s been convicting me, more and more – it’s building up gradually, in increments, sometimes so I barely notice it – but oh, it’s there. A shock at conference to put my sin in perspective, a leading over and over again to the Scriptures dealing with sin, temptation, and evil, increasingly humbling and wounding my heart…when I said that I was realizing that the Bible reading and the prayer and the confession weren’t enough, I didn’t mean they weren’t effective – to convince yourself of sin, read the Bible sections that deal with it. Pray. And see if you last the day or the week. God does convict. And it hurts. Especially since, each time I turn to Him, I am re-convicted, or he shows me a new facet. It’s still not coming easily, though. It feels like, and has felt like, such a battle to even reach this state – to realize that it’s wrong on several different levels, to realize that it’s me doing it, and that I’m hurting God and blaspheming against Him.Which almost makes it harder though. I’d rather be magically convicted of sin all at once, without having to strive for it, and then be completely broken and get it over with. Instead it’s an exhausting and often depressing struggle, reading the verses over and over which deal with my sin, asking God to strike me to the heart with them, pondering them, writing them down – and only then being convicted.

I am doing everything right. I’ve confessed(before God and soon enough before man). I’ve prayed. I’ve sought the Scriptures “diligently with tears”.  But you know what? All of that is completely meaningless without Christ. Bible reading, prayer, confession, yes, these are all the tools God gives us as Christians, which we’re supposed to use – it’s God-honouring to do these things – but ultimately they’re just arrows in the direction of Christ. C.S. Lewis once said, dealing with his grief over the loss of his wife, “I need Christ, not something that resembles Him.” I need Christ, not the tools he’s given to reach Him. They’re just empty shadows of Him, reflections of his being, notes upon Who He is. I need Him. Because only God has the strength to conquer my sin. I’m coming to realize this more and more, as I strive against it and am driven to desperation, unable to overcome. I can do nothing. It’s like salvation. I couldn’t lift a finger to save myself. God had to come in with all his overreaching, glorious, implacable power and save me from myself, because I was quite incapable of doing it. Slave to sin, bound by chains and unable to run away. So it is to some extent again.

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” Romans 8:37

The pastor went on to say that the only responsibility we have to God (in this situation) is to let go – to “let God in. And if you’re on your knees in the dust, suffering the consequences of your sin or someone else’s sin, look up. That’s all you can do. ‘He is the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross’”. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. If it was a sprint, we’d be able to make one dash and we’d be done – our own energy would carry us through, or in my case I’d fall down and it would be over – the race would be finished before I could get up – and I’d have lost. Fortunately for me, we’re not in a sprint, we’re in a marathon, so I have time to pick myself up(or rather let God force me to my feet) and keep on going, make up for miles lost and time fallen behind. Make up for hurting my Trainer.

In sin, we’re hurting both ourselves and God. Ourselves, because God always and invariably wants what’s best for us and if we’re in sin we’re not getting that, so we’re clearly doing harm to ourselves. And the Devil exploits this; he only wants what’s worst for us. The devil knew my weakness and so he tormented me with it. He would rather have me hungry forever than allow me to “taste and see that the Lord is good”. He wants me to do harm to myself – to my purity, my godliness, my faithfulness, my obedience to God – as Bob Boardman said, “the enemy of our lives is a destroyer – of our holiness, our integrity, our leadership and the kingdom of God”. There was only one salvation for Bob Boardman, as for me – James 1: 12-16 – i.e. the Word of God – God Himself.

But what I realized, ultimately is that I haven’t sinned against society, against other people, or even against myself – I’ve sinned against God. “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight” Psalm 51:4. I am a slave to my own sin, instead of being a slave to righteousness, instead of being set free in Christ. I’m willfully choosing slavery over Him, every time I sin. “Therefore, present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” Romans 12:1

So yes. I’ve grown convicted. Heart-weary and heart-sore, more sure now that I have hurt Christ my Lord and Saviour. But is it enough? My first question, when God began this conviction process in me, was where is the line between guilt and conviction? and is guilt enough? (to which my immediate response was “of course not”). Becuase what I first began to feel, increasingly over the week since conference, was guilt. A very different thing than repentance. I felt like a child who, having disappointed their parents, feels sorry for having hurt and disobeyed them, but can’t really feel that the thing was wrong in itself. The most frightening thing about sin is how quickly we become used to it – how quickly it becomes a part of who we are. The human being will always be more easily adaptable to sin than to grace – or holiness. A few repetitions of a sin and it’s already a habit, an attachment, reaching its tentacles into all the dark places of our soul. I didn’t realize how much I was imprisoned and entangled(”the sin which so easily ensnares us”) by it until I tried to set myself free – and then realized my human weakness was completely impotent against it. I need God – he’s the only one who can set me free. I need him to do everything, just as he did with salvation – not only can I not set myself free from/conquer this sin on my own, but I couldn’t even repent for it properly without his help.

But now? God’s convicted me, all right. My question now is, how do you know when you’ve repented enough? Is there a “repenting enough”? I want God to break me as completely as necessary – I really do. Break me, God, if that’s what it takes. I’m half-broken right now – if it’s necessary for things to get worse before they get better, so be it. I want to reach that point where it’s not just that I realize the sin is wrong and I’m battling it, but where it’s become so repulsive to me that I could never contemplate doing it again. That’s what I read once that we should strive for.

Right now, I’m torn between sin and conviction, between godly sorrow and godly fear, between fear of God’s wrath and trust in his promise of forgiveness. It’s a battle, and it’s being waged right in my heart.

Amazing Grace has been playing while I write this.

“Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home”. Tempt me not thus to despair.