I sat in the church pew at VBS, telling a friend that all she had to do to be saved was to “go to the alter and pray.” I felt bold and confident. Then, I felt scared. Terrified. I realized that I, too, needed to pray. I needed salvation.

I was eleven years old, and I didn’t really know what I needed to be “saved” from, but I knew that I needed to move. So I moved. I prayed with a VBS volunteer and cried as I asked Jesus into my heart.

I recalled those tears many times over the years to remind and reaffirm to myself that I had, for sure, been saved. During really dark, crazy times when I was swimming in a pool of sin, scared that I had finally done just enough to push God away for good, I reminded myself that I cried and asked for salvation. Therefore, I was saved. I was fine.

But I wasn’t fine. I spent many years relying on that one moment I had at bible school to justify my sin. It was all atoned for, right? Yeah, it was. But if Jesus died for my sins, where did that leave me? What was the point?

I made a lot of really stupid mistakes and hurt a lot of people. I spent a few seasons feeling pretty worthless and depressed and just super sad. I was totally convinced that God was going to punish me for my sins, even though I repented and turned in a new direction. I knew that He would not bless me nor would He use me for His glory, so I made it my mission to spend my life making it up to Him by being a good person and living a quiet life.

But guess what? God doesn’t work like that and it is impossible for me to live quietly. God doesn’t stop blessing us because we mess up. He doesn’t doom us to misery because of our sin. He actually uses our flaws for His glory. That’s weird, but so true.

I was at Mount Ararat Baptist Church in Stafford, Virginia when the pastor told the story of Rahab. When I heard that God used such a broken woman for His work, I was like, “Okay. Maybe I can have an actual purpose. Maybe I can serve Him authentically.”

From that day, salvation became something totally different. Salvation was no longer a moment, a prayer, a ticket to Heaven. Salvation became a journey to me. Salvation is now the real, authentic relationship I have with Jesus. Salvation is my redemption story and it is being written every day.

It is weird and sad to me when Christians are in constant misery. Oh yes, we have hard times. We have really, really hard, dark, empty, lonely times. i have spent a lot of time in the dark, and i ran toward the deepest darkest corner of the dark. But if anything has ever been remotely consistent in my life, it is Jesus. I can look at my wildly colorful, sporadically-patterned, tattered, ripped sweater of a life, and the one single constant, un-altered thread is Jesus–holding the entire crazy mess together.

This Sunday, my pastor, Muta Mwenya, will baptize me. I was baptized when I was eleven, but the opportunity is too good right now. It is too exciting to be able to publicly proclaim my Jesus, now that I’m an adult. I’m so honored that Muta will baptize me. He and his wife are for real, and their friendships are very precious to Derick and me.

My life verse has become: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

It is cool when I can see God actually doing something with me, even when I’m not fully committed. I believe He is attacking some of the ugliest parts of me. I’m beginning to be a little softer towards others. I’m starting to be more patient and understanding and compassionate.  I think He is doing this for His purpose. Classic Kem is judgmental, easily-offended, gossip-prone. I’m still all those things, but God chisels the faulty edges away. He polishes His most terrible children. We are His treasures and He wants us to shine. I once clung tightly to my sin and flaws and mistakes and held them as reasons not to be all in for Jesus. I’m not perfect and I won’t be perfect, but I am free. indeed!

(This post was originally posted on Old Cedar Hope Chest)