For a long time, I would pride myself on the things that I would abstain from. There were many things that the church and my parents told me would ruin my life or, at least, make it hard for me to live a good and righteous one. So, I submitted to what I perceived to be good and holy.

When my friends would tell me of their mistakes or sins, I would put on a facade of being empathetic and graceful, but deep down, I began to see myself as superior because I began to believe that they couldn’t be quite as good as me if they had done these things. I thought of myself as someone to be looked up to, and it was rotting me from the inside without even realizing it. Yet God, in his kindness, would soon wound me to the point where I would begin to see the truth of who he was and who I had become.

Upon beginning college ,I still did my same routines, abstaining from anything at all cost to be considered “clean” by God. But one day, I got a call that shook me to my core. My heart sank to the bottom of my feet. I began to hyperventilate and became unaware of my surroundings. After a few minutes, I calmed down, but the humming within my heart continued. It felt as though a piece of my heart had been ripped out and taken away from me. I slowly began submitting to my flesh, and I gave in to habits that etched away at my soul, piece by piece, until I realized that the once pure, good, Christian guy I had always been was now a shadow of who I had once been. All I wanted was to be made clean again. I thought that I was damaged goods and began to cry the same words as David in Psalm 51 when he said, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.” Never before had my sin been before my eyes as it was in this moment. I had strived to be pure for so long, forgetting that God himself was the only pure one. He didn’t just avoid sin, he fulfilled and longed to obey his Father at every turn. He loved without selfish motivation, gave without expectations of receiving, and lived life as a servant without the desire to be served. Yet in God’s kindness, he reminded me of one truth that sustained me then and sustains me now: God is near.

He was near the Israelites when he dwelled within the altar they had built for him. He was near the disciples and the rest of the nations when he dwelled and lived among the people. And he is near now by his Spirit, prompting, guiding, convicting, and lovingly showing us the way towards greater joy only found in God. While I knew it was true that I was indeed a sinner, it wasn’t my identity. We receive the same love that Jesus receives from the Father (Ephesians 1), and because of that, we receive the same words Jesus first heard when He was baptized, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” No caveats, no what ifs, no maybes. You and I are loved by God, and that will never change because there is nothing that will ever separate us from his love (Romans 8:31–39). Even though God is just, right, and holy, he’s a God who invites us in and gives us his righteousness while wearing our sin because he longs to be with the very people he came to save.

So, Christian, remember this: you are the beloved of God. Rest assured that, through his own Spirit, you will be kept till the very day that you arrive and meet Jesus face to face and hear the words, “well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).