Sitting in my dorm room, 21 years old, crying my eyes out in anger, I had just let my guard down again, letting loneliness and hunger and the busyness of school turn me inward and to the internet for a quick fix of pleasure. I was dissatisfied with my life and had no agenda except to avoid this pain. I was a ship being tossed around the ocean of self doubt, broken, with no idea who I was. And NOW, the frustration of not being who I thought I should be; that pure, holy, saintly man, was a like a Kraken ready to destroy me. The thoughts of shame and guilt swirled into a frenzy…
I had tried everything. Accountability, time in the chapel, the sacraments, books, and mentors. I gave my life to Jesus. Why wasn’t I holy yet!?
Like the Prodigal Son, filled with paralyzing fear, I sat there “tending my swine, dying of hunger, longing to eat my fill of the pods on which the swine fed,” when all of a sudden, there in my anguish, knowledge of my true identity overcame me.
I heard the Father call my name. I remembered again that He waits for me, that sometimes He even runs to me, and that He still holds a place for me at His table… even now. With hope in my heart, I trudged back down to the chapel to go to confession, for the third time in one week.
Once I became a husband and a father quickly thereafter, this story recurred almost every month. Now, almost in my forties, I feel like I have to get up out of my pigpen and return to the Father every single day. I once believed the myth that you can become a saint overnight simply by doing saintly things. It was a scam. It is the ultimate scam of God’s enemy. It is a lie that distracts us from being known and loved by the Father.
Like “get rich quick” scams, the “get holy quick” scams are abundant. They are horrifyingly subtle, sophisticated, and absurdly successful. And unfortunately, many of us are a part of their sales team.
“Read this book, take these steps, start this program. You too can become a saint overnight!”
I’m done with it. The story of the prodigal son speaks about a God that is patient with us, who knows us and loves us as we are. It tells the story of a God whose Mercy never ends. The truth is, even on my worst day, the day I have left home seeking out pleasure apart from His household, the days when I have completely blown it, I am still the background image on His cell phone. I am His son.
Today, I am still light years away from holiness, but I am thankful for the inches that God’s grace has moved me over the years. He used to find me with my swine. Now, He can find me in my room, because I now dwell in His house. God is working in my life and I’m learning to be patient with myself. I am a beloved child. I no longer believe the myth that sanctity happens overnight and I’m okay with it. This journey into true freedom and trust is a blast! This pilgrimage is an adventure.
If you are beating yourself up today, for what you haven’t become yet, let me remind you. You are royalty and you are loved by the Creator. Cooperate with His grace, retrace your steps, return to His table, He is waiting for you. It’s not too late. He’s making you and me better over time.
Ennie Hickman is the President of Adore Ministries. He and his wife currently mission in Houston, TX with their seven children.