A friend called with a word of encouragement yesterday. Her word, “Just step out and do it! I think you need to write for the scholarship.” After my list of excuses, she hesitantly asked, “Do you trust God?” That resonated deep within my soul. Jesus had asked me that same question several years ago. I could hear His voice echo again, “Do you trust Me?”
Old wooden pews, the sound of southern gospel singing, my grandpa’s voice giving the final altar call, and seven years old marked the beginning of my journey with Jesus. I made my way forward, prayed the prayer; I trusted Him, I thought, with all my heart. I always wanted to please those I so admired, especially Him. Through the years I kept all the rules, all the do’s and don’ts. Pride swept in like an ugly bandit. I had minimal tolerance for people who couldn’t manage to walk the straight and narrow. In my eyes, my clothes were starchy and bright white. I made all the socially and religiously appropriate decisions and thought I had it all together. Call it immaturity, but it was pride and judging. Plain sin but I didn’t recognize it! If I could’ve seen the truth, I would’ve seen the mud all over my starchy clothes.
In my early twenties, I faithfully attended church and served… for many of the wrong reasons. Soon I began noticing discrepancies. Some Christians seemed to wear a costume and smile on Sundays to disillusion others into thinking their lives were perfect! The enemy was slowly creeping into my thought life but I was unaware! By my early thirties, numerous circumstances had worn me down spiritually and emotionally. I had so much to be thankful for and couldn’t see it through my exhausted and jaded vision. Around that time and while our children were small, my husband and I were juggling our babies and jobs. We would only pass each other in the night, and our marriage began to suffer. Everything looked good on the outside, but inside was falling apart. Now, I had become the Christian wearing a costume and smiling on Sundays to disillusion others into thinking my life was perfect!
The enemy finally got his foothold and I thought, “My husband’s not the same person, I don’t think he loves me; I sometimes wonder if he even loves our children. Church isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s filled with people masquerading as something they’re not. They serve to wave their badge or so they won’t feel guilty. I’ve worked myself to death and still don’t feel any closer to God, as a matter of fact, I can’t feel Him at all. I’m spiritually dried up and withering. I don’t want to read my Bible. What I’ve been taught my whole life must not be right; maybe it’s not even real. Is God even real?” All logic and reason went out the window. Satan had built his case, his web of lies. He set the trap and I fell in.
My thoughts were the first thing tangled in his carefully woven trap. My actions followed. Apart from tasting, I had never consumed alcohol up to this point in my life. I was the person others were constantly trying to get to drink. Finally, I caved and went for it. Soon after, I began making some sexually immoral decisions and alcohol always preceded those actions. It impaired my ability to reason or care! I never became addicted, but liquor was always a useful assistant in accomplishing my wrongdoing. I wasn’t one of those people who could drink and not remember what happened. As God would have it, the next day always embraced memories!! This went on for a few months. Being rebellious seemed fun at first, but the “fun” was empty and faded, and inside I was still withering.
I know much of my misery came from mistreating God’s temple. He had taken up residence in my life and body many years prior. He still loved me and nothing would change that! But, the Holy Spirit couldn’t possibly be okay with my actions and thoughts. He couldn’t make His dwelling in a person who was choosing sin over Him. I remember distinctly lying in my bed, shameful and guilty. Spiritually, physically, and emotionally naked I could feel the presence of God. El Roi, God who sees was looking at me. I said, “God, please don’t look at me.” He reminded me He had never left me. “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. /You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. /Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence” (Psalm 139:1, 3, 7; NIV)?
He beckoned me, “Come closer. Do you trust Me?” Then, it was over. I knew I couldn’t go on living this way. I had to get out of this tangled web. I knew if I didn’t, I would die in it! I finally fell on my knees, face before God and cried out for His mercy and help. He gently began unraveling my mess and wooed me back. Thankfully I didn’t lose my marriage and family through it or for that matter my life. Soon I found myself in church; the non-traditional type. It was exactly what I needed! Not only did we join, but I began serving as a worship leader. God showed me His love and mercy by allowing me to lead others into His presence in song. I’m still amazed by that!
Forgiven yes, free from guilt, no! I had decided I would go to my grave with all I had done. No one needed to know. It was between me, my husband, and God. The chains of guilt were dragging me down. God placed me in a situation in which I had organized and hosted a retreat for the women on the worship team. One of the last nights of this trip, my new friend and I went to take the trash out. She confessed one of her struggles. Immediately the Holy Spirit began prompting me to share my story. I sat in the dark on the steps; she sat in front of me with the street light shining in her face. It was such a representation of our innermost souls. She had spoken hers into the light, while mine remained hidden in darkness.
Satan tried so hard to convince me not to share. He said, “She’s so young she’ll never understand. What if she tells someone? Maybe you can’t trust her. She might judge you. What she did is nothing compared to what you’ve done.” Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit continued nudging, “Tell her. Do you trust Me?” Through fear, regret, and shame, I tearfully began sharing. I did trust Him, and I had to act on it or suffocate in the heaviness of the moment. Her response was nothing like I imagined. God had given her wisdom beyond her years and grace for that special moment. She responded gently and lovingly, speaking truth. I no longer saw the precious friend Jesus had so sweetly placed in my life in that moment, I saw Him. I could hear Him saying, “Rivera, you are mine. I love you. I died for you. Nothing you have done or will ever do can change that! I died so you could have life. You have to let go and move forward. You Rivera are my beloved… forgiven, blessed, and made pure by My blood on the cross. I have plans for you. I will set you free.”
And praise God; because of that conversation with Him, I walk in confidence and freedom today! That vulnerability and willingness to step out and “trust Him” reaped so many benefits, including a life-long, God-chosen friend! We took more than trash bags out that night. We took out the trash of our souls. And Jesus the Recycler has taken the garbage from my past and turned it into something beautiful. Yes indeed my clothes are white. I’m clothed in purity, but not because of anything I’ve done or haven’t done. It’s only by His blood, and He receives all the glory! He reminds me, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25; NIV). I know Him in a new way. What I knew with my head most of my life has now translated to my heart. My pride was stripped, and I have no room to judge anyone for anything they’ve done. He’s taught me to love others the way He loves me, and the way He loves them. He’s set me free because “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17b; NIV).
The message He had for me that night is the same for you. He beckons you, come closer. Put your name in place of mine! “___, you are My beloved.”
So He asked me, “Do you trust Me?” My response was a resounding, “Yes!” And His reply…well it was simply beautiful and still calls me closer!
~The She Speaks Conference is designed for women to connect the hearts of other women to the heart of God. My heart is to serve Him and His daughters as He leads. For scholarship entry information, go to