My New Life in Christ

by Sara Mankin
I’ve always known about who God was. I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, but never truly understood the meaning behind any of it as I went through the different sacraments. My childhood was filled with physical and verbal abuse at home, but I never talked about it to anyone. Instead, I turned to other things for comfort. At age 12, I began to smoke cigarettes, by 14 I was drinking alcohol, smoking weed, and popping pills. I began counseling at the age of 15, and saw various psychiatrists who prescribed me medications that only made me feel even more detached from the world and numb to everything. In high school, I was admitted into a mental health facility on two different occasions. One was for an attempted suicide at age 17. I didn’t actually want to take my own life, I just wanted to get away from the abuse.

After high school, I moved in with one of my best friends and it was through our friendship that I began to attend a Christian church. We’d party on Saturdays and show up to church on Sundays. I was baptized at this church in 2015, and it caused great division within my family because I now claimed Christianity and not Catholicism.

Around the time I was baptized, I met my ex-husband in college, who also professed to be a Christian. We were both pursuing careers in law enforcement and by this time, I had stopped drinking and partying because I didn’t want it to hinder my career.

We dated on and off for nearly 3 years before he finally proposed to me, and we got married within 3 months of being engaged. We were married for about a year and a half before he left. Although we both claimed to be Christians, our marriage did not truly glorify the LORD. We couldn’t glorify Him because the god we served was an idol; a false god we had carved out ourselves. We were living for our own selfish desires, doing things in God’s name but for our own glory. We did not honor or respect one another, and soon the same abuse I experienced as a child became a reality for me in my own marriage. We tried so hard in our own strengths to make it work. We kept asking God why things were the way they were, why we fought all the time, why we failed each other so much. We didn’t understand it. Eventually, after going to counseling together more intently, for 6 months, our fights lessened. I thought things were getting better. Fast forward to the night he came home late from work, waking me up in the middle of the night, only to tell me he wanted a divorce and was leaving.  

Everything was out of my control, and had I been in my previous state of mind, I would have probably yelled, begged him to stay, or done something crazy and stupid. And yet, I didn’t— In the moment the words left his mouth saying he wanted a divorce, I immediately became overwhelmed with a peace I had never known. I was hurt and confused, but I wasn’t  devastated. I felt betrayed, but somehow not forsaken. You see, in that very moment, it was as if the Lord drew me to Himself, and I felt from that very moment that everything was going to be okay. Even if my husband left and divorced me, I would be okay.

It didn’t make any sense to me at the time. Not that I didn’t feel any pain or hurt at all during this season of my life, but somehow the man I had made into an idol was not my greatest concern any longer; when he decided he wanted a divorce, my desires had somehow shifted in that moment to Christ. I could have tried to control the situation, but instead, I felt peace as I fell to my knees in prayer and began to pour out my heart to Him.

I went back to my parent’s house, and I began to spend hours in prayer and in His Word. I grieved not only because the man I had loved more than anything in this world was leaving me, but I grieved also because the more that I read of God’s Word, the more He revealed to me each and every single way we dishonored Him in our marriage. Each page was a mirror that pointed back at me, illuminating to me the weight of my sin and of dealing treacherously with a Holy God. He revealed to me through His Word that I had only professed faith by my words, but that I had never truly known Him.

I began to truly see that I was an enemy of God; dead in my sins because I loved what God hated and desired the will of my own flesh (Rom 8:7-8; Eph 2:1-3). My sins condemned me. I deserved the fullness of His wrath; to be separated from God’s grace for all eternity in hell. Had it not been for His grace, I never would have even turned to Him. Thomas Watson wrote, “The goodness of God is a spiritual sunbeam to melt the heart into tears... it leadeth to repentance (Rom 2:4).” It was a godly sorrow that produced repentance leading to salvation (2 Cor 7:10), and I became a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). It was beautiful to see that God, being rich in mercy (Eph 2:4), while I was still dead in my sin (Eph 2:5), called me to Himself and chose me even before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4), and made me alive together with Christ (Eph 2:5; Rom 5:8). My salvation was a gift, freely given by His grace (Eph 2:8-9), “It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Rom 9:16). I am forgiven because of the atoning work of Christ on the cross, and redeemed “through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph 1:7). I have received an inheritance (Eph 1:11), being sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph 1:13) in which I can now call the LORD, “Abba, Father” (Rom 8:15), no longer living for myself (Gal 2:20) but in all things, for the glory of God alone.

Although the divorce brought much pain, the LORD in His providence placed me perfectly where He had foreordained me to be, and I wouldn’t have wanted it to happen any other way. I’m also thankful for the family I have gained within the body of Christ— the many sisters and brothers that have come alongside me in the midst of my suffering— through prayer and bearing my burdens with them, and always pointing me back to the truth of His Word.

I’ll end with what John Bunyan wrote in The Pilgrim’s Progress, “And as for this coat that is on my back, it was given me by the Lord of the place whither I go... And I take it as a token of his kindness to me; for I had nothing but rags before... thus I comfort myself as I go: Surely, think I, when I come to the gate of the city, the Lord thereof will know me for good since I have this coat on my back—a coat that he gave me freely in the day that he stripped me of my rags.”