Falling Back to God

Sometimes it takes the worst in life to gain the best from God.

by Kristin Kuenzle

I met him at work — a carefree summer job. I was a beginning employee, and he was a manager. He wasted no time getting to know me. In fact, nothing was slow with him. From the first night we worked together until our first date, he never gave up pursuing me. He kept asking me to do things with him.

I knew very little about this guy, but what I did know told me that he was not the right one for me. I tried to be nice; I tried being polite. “I don’t think so,” I said. Then “No, I don’t think so.” Then “No, absolutely not.” My standards were much higher than his. I was in control; I knew how to resist. Besides, I had said no to other guys before, guys who were as persistent as he. I knew I could handle him just the same.

Weakening resistance

Then something changed. It was as if the more adamant I became, the easier I was to influence. Like a piece of metal twisted back and forth, I finally became weak and then broke. At the time, I would have said I really liked this guy, that he was what I wanted, and that it had just taken me longer to realize it. But now that my vision isn’t blurred, I can see that I liked the attention. Being with him gave me comfort and security. So I justified that spending a little time with him wouldn’t hurt anything. It would satisfy both of us, and I could always get out if I wanted to. After all, I was in control.

It started off gradually, but each step led me deeper and deeper into a relationship. Our first date was not supposed to be a date at all, so he told me, though it certainly had the makings of one. He picked me up after work, we went to movie (he paid), and then out for drinks (he paid). From there it progressed.

Inner dysfunction

Before I met this guy, I was a pious preacher’s daughter with little or no major blemish on my record. I always told myself and everyone else that I was saving myself for a good guy and a spiritually mature leader. I wasn’t going to be one of those who settled for someone just because he flirted; I wasn’t susceptible to the temptation. I had gone through the typical teenager rebellion and survived without much damage.

Unfortunately, this was different. This time I became unguarded and allowed my pride to rule.

From the inner dysfunction of my choice oozed all kinds of abnormalities. The healthy relationship I had with my parents became sickly and shaky. They no longer trusted my judgment, and they questioned my motives. Because of their responses, I stopped telling them things. What did I really care? My brother wasn’t too pleased, either. I dated someone he didn’t want me to be with and so ruined a perfectly good friendship with him.

On top of this, my relationship with God was nearly nonexistent. The more I was with the guy, the less I cared about the One who cared most about me.

Decline

I now had a guy who didn’t claim to know Christ. But he was OK, right? And I was OK.

Well, not exactly. Because I wanted to be with him, because I wanted the attention and affection, I loosened my standards and became more apathetic. I told myself that certain things didn’t matter as much as I thought they did. This was much more fun. And besides, I wasn’t viewed as a holier-than-thou, ignorant Christian girl anymore.

Toward the end of our time together, I did a lot of stupid things. I would skip classes, be late to work, and stay up all hours talking on the phone. After I had known this guy a year, life continued to decline, and I realized I wasn’t really happy. I knew it was almost over. Even though we had talked of marriage several times, I knew it couldn’t last.

I had to let our relationship go, but I wanted to get all I could out of it before I did. In reality, I loved myself and wanted to take advantage of the guy as he had taken advantage of me. We were both behaving out of a desire that was self-gratifying and ended up leaving me empty of hope and full of shame. I finally left him, but not without losing a large part of my purity and pride.

Lesson in humility

I was despondent and felt far away from all those who truly loved me. Though I had disobeyed God, He spared me from the worst that could have happened and used it all to teach me what it means to be humble. Before that time, I had never really been broken. I knew I was a sinner in need of salvation, but I wasn’t as in need as some were. Sure, God had redeemed me, but it hadn’t taken much.

But after what I went through with this guy, I realized I was capable of falling off of high cliffs just as much as the next hiker. I realized that failing to keep vows I had held to so obstinately was not beyond my capability. I realized I was a sinner as much as anyone else. I was dirty and in desperate need of forgiveness.

I also saw all the remarks and accusations I had made against other sinners as snide and judgmental. When friends made bad decisions, I had always been compassionate on the outside, but deep in the corridors of my heart, I thought I was better than they. I had more self-control. I knew when to say no. I was pure. I was favored. I was special.

I was disgusting.

Purpose of failure

Sometimes I wonder if God placed me in that job as a test to see how I would respond to temptation over time. Would I rely on Him or try to figure it out on my own? Would I accept the situation, justify the means, and make light of the end, only to come crawling back after it was all over? God knew I would fail to hold on to conviction. He knew I would be left with damaged pieces of ego. He knew I would come to Him defeated and hurting, and He was there.

The whole time God was with me and was ready and willing to help me. He walked through the muck with me, and after I came out on the other side, He offered to clean me up. But first I had to come to the point where I recognized my dirt and filth. I had to admit failure before I could see my need.

Home of the heart

I had barred God out of my life, telling Him, in essence, that He wasn’t welcome. Yet He waited patiently, whispering to my heart, “Kristin, this is My home, not his. Please let me back in.”

Finally, I let God back into the home of my heart. I tried to straighten myself up as best I could, but He was the only one who could cleanse me and put everything back in order. And He did.

Since then, God has restored so much I thought was utterly lost and destroyed. He is the ultimate restorer. Nothing is beyond His hand, nothing is beyond His repair.

Worst to best

Today I am in a healthy, loving relationship with a truly godly man. He is so much more than I ever imaged, and I have yet to feel deserving of him. Despite my failure, despite my disobedience, God has blessed me with someone I cannot merit through my behavior. Once again, I am humbled — this time not through disgrace but through blessing.

Many will say that the worst experiences in life will shape you in the best ways. When I was going through one of those “worst experiences,” I couldn’t envision a hopeful outcome. But now I can see how the worst brought me to the best.