By Emily Thomes
The Girl in the Picture
Recently I came across the photo on the left and did a double take. The girl in that photo, with her hollow eyes and hopeless heart, no longer bears any resemblance to me. She was dead in her sin (Eph. 2:1). (To be clear, I am not saying everyone who looks like the girl on the left is dead in sin, or that everyone who looks like the girl on the right is not. Spiritual reality runs far deeper.)
I was always the type to push boundaries. Even as a child, I never really had a moderate pace. I tried everything once but most things at least twice for my own curiosity. Growing up in a small town, there wasn’t much to do, and I acted out often. In high school, I met my need for attention by constantly “going against the grain,” but in a way that maintained my popularity. I partied, slept around and by 15 I came out as a lesbian to some friends.
By the time I was a young adult, I fully embraced the LGBT label. I cut my hair short, wore boy clothes, and used men’s bathrooms and dressing rooms. I enjoyed the thrill of doing and being what was outside the norm — trying harder drugs, exploring even more taboo sexual acts and getting a couple of regrettable tattoos.
By 22, I had settled down a little. Shock value, though still something I enjoyed, was a lower priority. While still smoking weed and having sex with women, I maintained an outward appearance of morality. I considered myself a good person; I worked full-time, loved my friends and usually balanced my budget. Family relationships were improving, and I was finally attempting to lead a relatively respectable life.
Surprised by Attributes
In March 2014, a group of coworkers started a Bible study and invited me to join. Because my aunt was part of the group, I agreed to participate. I actually considered myself a Christian at that point, though I had no desire to read God’s Word, let alone conform my life to his will. I told myself that at the first mention of my “lifestyle” I’d quit the study, and I felt pretty confident that moment would come.
The book we studied was on the attributes of God. For the first time, I was confronted by the justice, holiness and sovereignty of God. The more I read and understood, the bigger God became and the smaller I felt. I knew what the Bible said about homosexuality and other things, but I hadn’t cared before. I had little understanding of the God I was sinning against.
This study was slowly shifting my perspective. I would catch myself, just before falling asleep, questioning who I was and why I made these choices. I asked myself, Am I sure that gay behavior is as much of my identity as my gender or my race? But I’d wake up and laugh and say, Of course, you can embrace your homosexuality — that’s who you are! It felt like I was almost convincing myself it was okay to continue on that way.
Two weeks later, a friend (also a lesbian) waited for me at my apartment after work to smoke marijuana and hang out as usual. After we smoked, I asked her, “What if they’re right?” She knew I was doing the study and understood immediately what I meant and said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” I pushed further. “We have to. If this is true, we need to talk now and not later.” She left soon after, so I picked up my book and read.
That evening, I read a chapter describing a “salad bar religion,” where you pick and choose parts of different religions, combine them into one and call that your belief system. The book made clear that such an approach isn’t following Jesus at all; that’s following yourself and calling it some other name. I realized I was doing just that. I believed the parts of the Bible that suited me but rejected the parts that didn’t. His Word wasn’t my guide or a light to my path; I merely claimed Christianity because I had grown up in the South and prayed occasionally.
‘Such Were Some of You’
This realization was like being struck by lightning. I searched for verses on homosexuality and found 1 Corinthians 6:9–10. I’d read these and other verses like them before. I’d argued against them to those who opposed me, but suddenly I could no longer argue. It was clear. I was in the “will not enter the kingdom of God” lineup. I was lost, wretched and blatantly opposed to him. But the next verse said, “And such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:11). Clearly, the Lord could save me. He’d extended his hand to me, the worst of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). I grasped his hand by faith, and I felt overwhelmingly awful and grateful. Although I’d ignored him and lived foolishly, he showed me mercy when I deserved nothing but justice.
My whole life changed that day. Homosexual practice and drug use were my most obvious sins, but there are many others he revealed and — continues to reveal — to me. I still battle same-sex attraction, pride, anger and a slew of sins, but I trust he’ll complete the work he’s begun (Phil. 1:6). He’s also allowed me to be a wife, and one day, Lord willing, a mother. Two months ago — on the two-year anniversary of my conversion — I married the most Christlike man I’ve ever known.
The Lord has been so gracious to me. I’m grateful that he opened my eyes and saved me from the temporal and eternal consequences of my sins. He takes the worst of the worst and redeems them for his glory.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
About the Author: Emily Thomes is a wife, speaker, avid Facebooker and a member of Christ Community Church of Texarkana, Texas. She aspires to be a homeschool mother and blogger. You can follow her on Twitter.