Eighteen years later, I sat at a traffic light at the exit of 295. This was not my normal exit. I had taken it due to a traffic jam. As my eyes settled on the building across the street, I asked why today? This building reminded me of a time I would rather forget.  I felt a deep sense of grief pierce my heart.

This happened less than two weeks after our annual Women’s Conference. The Speaker, Margie Stewart, taught about women who gave their ALL to Jesus. Women who truly loved the Lord with all their heart, soul and strength. One of the women she spoke about was the nameless woman in Luke 7:36-38, known only as a sinner. When this woman heard Jesus was in town, she allowed nothing to stand in her way to Him, including shame. She did not let the Pharisees intimidate her because of her reputation. When she washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and used her expensive oil to anoint them, she did not let the negative responses stop her. She wanted Jesus, and nothing was going to get in her way.

Listening to this story, I pictured this woman and her bravery. I related to how she must have felt walking through all that judgment to get to Jesus. And I imagined the joy she experienced when she finally sat at the feet of the one who accepted her, and forgave ALL her sins.

Sitting at this light, I thought about the incident that led to my youngest son and myself visiting that building every Wednesday night for months.

My son was ten. We were innocent victims of the consequences of someone else’s sin. That person was incarcerated. When we stopped at this Burger King every week, we were there for dinner on the way from the jail in Camden to Blackwood for Church. 

All these years later, as I gazed at this building, I felt the stab of my lack back then. I had not gotten to the place where my entire life was turned over to God’s will. I was timidly working on it. But the process was slow, and due to lingering embarrassment for past sins, I always hesitated to ask for help. 

As Proverbs 3:7 tells us, “Do not be wise in your own eyes: Fear the Lord and depart from evil.”

I thought I knew best. I did not understand that God wanted to direct all paths of my life. The only time I reached out was a vague prayer request in a weekly Women’s Bible study.  Too scared to say why, I would simply ask for wisdom and discernment. I was too worried about what they would think. I was also too embarrassed to go to the Holy Spirit.  So, I directed my and my son’s paths without godly counsel.

I do not beat myself up about this. I raised my child the best I could, in the way he should go. As I grew in the Lord, I passed to him what I learned. Still, I would do almost ALL of it differently today, because the depth of love my Father has for me and the wisdom found in His Word gave me a much better way to live.

As Paul says, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,” Philippians 3:13. 

I once let shame stand between me and Jesus. I hung my head and stayed away from Him for years. 

The Lord wants us to leave regret at the door when we walk out of our sin and into His redemptive presence. He wants us to turn to Him and let nothing get in the way of reaching Him. He desires to fill us with his wisdom and shower us with His Love. 

I left that grief at the stop light. As I drove home, I remembered something else Margie said. I had also heard Val say this in our Bible studies. It comes from Genesis 35: 1-3. [1] Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.”[2] And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments. [3] Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.” 

God did not leave Jacob when he made wrong decisions. He will not leave us either. He wants us to build altars, to remember what He has brought us out of. To remind us that we can always choose to turn back to Him. Just as He had Jacob return to where he lost his way. 

The woman called a sinner, let go of what was behind, and gave her All to Jesus. She loved Him with her whole heart, soul and strength. When we do the same, we find ourselves sitting at His feet just as she did.

Today there is one more ‘altar’ in my book, of another time when God did not leave or forsake me. Why that day? To remind me, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1. 

Lord, I pray for anyone who has not left shame at the foot of the cross. Please hold them in your loving and mighty arms, as you have done for me. Help us remember the words of Paul, and run to you as the woman known as a sinner did with praise and thanksgiving. Thank You for calling us back when we have gone astray, as you did for Jacob, so we may build altars to remember and give You all Glory and Honor. I ask in Jesus Almighty name. Amen

Janice S.