by Elizabeth de Barros
I would have despaired
If I had not believed
That You would come to me
Great God who saves
—Lyrics from Great God Who Saves by Laura Story
Thirty-two years ago seems like yesterday, as does sitting at my mother’s kitchen table, longing to be understood and have my sins accounted for. Her compassion held me somewhat, but still the moment proved inadequate for any further confession. She couldn’t cleanse me of my sin and take away my guilt. My soul was a mix of trouble and danger — to what degree I didn’t exactly know, except that I was crawling out of my skin. I decided to take off down the road, no fixed destination in mind.
A main highway is no place to work out your salvation, but that day it had become the ordained venue. Cars blurred past; I hardly noticed. Preoccupied with only one thing: How to undo the burden that was my life.
Just 17, deeply broken and with an as yet unformed theology, all I knew was that both Heaven and Hell were beckoning. Somewhere between turning off the highway and meandering halfway down the dirt side road, vivid in my mind’s eye was the stunning, bloody scene of Golgotha — an offensive sight had I not believed.
Jesus died for my sins. Mine.
The heat of conviction fell as my heart pounded. No longer a clergyman’s dry recitation as dictated by a perfunctory church calendar, I was grasping the reality of Christ’s death in real time, on the ground — in my darkest hour of need.
I had faith, but not the legs to keep walking. I did what made the most sense at the time — climbed over the nearby post and rail and barbed wire fence to make my way over the hill, hidden from view. The cows weren’t out to pasture, and the fact that I was trespassing was of even less concern. I dropped to my knees. Dead men don’t care where they die.
The crush of sin was now too much to bear. I cried out to God loud enough for all the world to hear, absorbed in my solitary state. Clouds overhead were a tumultuous grey, threatening downpour. A necessary, unbearable moment. I didn’t demand of Him what I could only beg for.
Would He hear me?
However long I spent in travail I don’t know, but long enough for the sky to give way to crepuscular rays and for the effectual work of grace to take hold, cleanse the dreck of sin from my soul and set me free from the wasting ache of pain, guilt, and shame.
The moment had passed. I got up. With hands raised, I stood amazed, wiping away the last of my tears. A whole new world had opened up. Back on the road, I skipped and sang like a carefree little girl.
Without a doubt, He had come to me.
Great God who saves.