My palms were sweating as I waited for my turn. During my first week of college, I met some new friends, and we went to Chili’s to celebrate the completion of our first week of school. During dinner, someone suggested we share our testimonies. I immediately felt a boulder-sized pit form in my stomach because, little did they know, I was in a deep pit of sin and shame.

At that point, I truly believed that God could not possibly want me. My heart was pounding as all eyes turned to me, and gazing downward through tears, I untangled the web of my shame-filled story that I had never shared with a single soul. I cringed as I finished the story and braced myself for judgmental looks from this new group of friends, convinced they would not want to accept me into this new-formed circle.

My fiery friend Amelia said, “Maddie, you have been forgiven for that!” She then quoted a verse I knew by heart, but that came alive to me that night: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This is the part I knew and had been living as if that is where the passage ended. I had fallen short. There is no way that God could want me; I was damaged goods!

Fortunately, this is not where that passage ends. It goes on to say in verses 24–26 that we “…are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

I was very aware and plagued with the thought that I had fallen short, but I had not grasped what Christ had done for me. My friend looked me square in the eye and said, “Maddie, Jesus has broken the bondage of sin and shame, the jail cell is wide open, but you are asking God to put the chains back on because you will not accept the forgiveness that you have in Him. The price has been paid! Walk in freedom.” And ever since, by God’s grace, I have been able to do just that.

The journey has not been perfect, but as I go, I remember:

  • I have been justified by the blood of Christ. (See Romans 5:9.)
  • I am being sanctified as I journey with my eyes set upon Him. (See 2 Corinthians 3:18.)
  • When Christ returns, I will gain glorification through Him and never struggle with sin and shame again. (See 1 John 3:2.)

The same is true for all who believe in Him and accept this gift. Hallelujah, what a Savior!