As long as I can remember, my parents faithfully taught me about the dangers of sin and evil. They read the Bible to my siblings and I and faithfully prayed for and with us. I was taken to church weekly and learned many things about God. One of the most significant things I learned at church was that I needed to be holy because God is holy. From that point on, I desired to live a holy life; however, not having a full understanding of how to do so, I often mimicked what I saw other Christians doing without having any clarity about why I was doing it. I tried to incorporate Christian activities into my life, such as praying and reading my Bible, but only did so with the intent to avoid God’s punishment. Even though I often did not understand what I was doing or why, I felt good about myself as a believer and thought I was on the right track.
Those who didn’t know me well may have perceived that I was a budding Christian; however, I knew that it was all an act. When I was not at church, I found enjoyment in engaging in sinful activities and even encouraged others to follow in my example.
Turning on and off the “Christian” in me allowed me to have the best of both worlds. I gradually drifted deeper and deeper into sin as I became more exposed to worldly pleasures. Eventually, my faith weakened so much that I would only engage with God occasionally out of guilt or when I needed His help.
Looking back, I see now that I had lacked an accurate understanding of the truth of the Gospel and its implications for me as a sinner. I knew that my lifestyle and choices were offensive to God, yet I continued on with it. I was living as a fraud “holy” on Sundays but reckless all the other days. I wanted to change but I did not know how. It seemed too hard to please God, which led me to feel unworthy of His love. I went to church as I had always done, but I did not think I was good enough to belong to or serve God. In my mind, as long as I was a sinner, God wanted nothing to do with me.
I am grateful that even at my worst, God was always faithful. God worked His plan in my life despite my rebellion. My life began taking a turn for the better during my last year of graduate school. By chance, I reconnected online with an old friend who I hadn’t spoken to in years. I was interested in getting to know him beyond friendship, but when I learned that he was studying to be a pastor, I assumed he would not be interested in me. In my mind, he was “too holy” for me and would reject me once he found out that I was a failure, fraud, and sinner.
As my friend and I got to know each other better, I took a huge risk and revealed to him the ugliness of my past. Surprisingly, he responded by taking the time to share Christ’s love with me. He taught me about the truth of the Gospel, stating that Jesus died for my sins and, as my Savior, all the sins that I had committed had been paid for through his death and sacrifice. He assured me that God loved me unconditionally and that if I had given my life to Christ, I was forgiven and a new creation.
Although I was both grateful and relieved to hear the truth of the Gospel, I would often doubt my salvation because I was constantly reminded of all the terrible things I had done in the past. I didn’t believe that God would want someone like me in his kingdom. Thankfully, when I felt unworthy, my friend always showed me what God’s love looked and felt like through his own actions. My friend was patient, kind, and graceful towards me. I was in awe that a human being could have so much love for such a flawed person as me. It was through this friend that I finally experienced the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. My friend and I married shortly after we met, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Till this day, my husband still exhibits a Christ-like love towards me, reminding me of Jesus’ love every day.
Shortly after we married, my husband informed me that he wanted to accept a full-time position as a pastor. This immediately filled my heart with dread, as I did not feel I was fit to be a pastor’s wife due to my past. In my mind, the ideal wife of a pastor was perfect in every way and did not have a past like mine. I told him I was not interested and asked that he reconsider. My husband was patient and encouraged me to pray about it. As I prayed, God quickly began moving in my heart. I began to develop an unfamiliar courage to trust in God with my life even though I felt unworthy.
In my new role as the wife of a pastor, I continued to battle with my feelings of unworthiness due to my history. I would often decline opportunities that God put in front of me because I felt I was not qualified. I thought I would only be an embarrassment to God and feared judgement from others. God would not let me hide though and through lots of prayer and encouragement from my husband, I came to the realization that I was still punishing myself for the things I had done in the past even though I had been set free by Jesus. It was then that I finally embraced God’s forgiveness and never again experienced guilt and shame for my past.
I began sharing about God’s redemptive love for me when I was given the opportunities to encourage those who were fighting their own battles with sin. In sharing my testimony, it was clear to others that if God could redeem someone as unworthy as me,
He could do the same for them and more. God was using my story for His glory. The Bible tells us that despite their sinful pasts, God used people like David, an adulterer, and Rahab, a prostitute, to bring glory and honor to His name. If you are being weighed down by your past or feel unworthy to serve God, I strongly encourage you to take comfort in the following Bible verse:
1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. May God’s name be glorified always.
Maihli (N. Xf. Jay) Vang
Maihli (Nam Xf. Jay) has been married to her husband, Xf. Jay Vang, for over 10 years. She is the proud mother of one son, Sammy. She serves God alongside her husband at Sacramento Hmong Alliance Church.