Written By Jackie G, USA
On January 4, 2016, I genuinely thought my life was falling apart. I remember sitting on my couch, alone in my apartment.
Normally, I would have drowned out my feelings with an episode of Friends and a bowl of cereal, but that evening, I just sat there in cold silence. I had been crying for about a week straight, my eyes were puffy, and I could barely see the pages of the journal I was writing in.
I had craved a relationship with my older sister for years, but it wasn’t until a few months prior that the bond was starting to form. Like normal siblings, my sister and I went back and forth with liking each other one day and getting on each other’s nerves the next. Growing up, we had our fair share of conflicts, such as when I made friends with people that my sister didn’t exactly approve of. It didn’t help that we didn’t stay together for a few years when she moved to LA to do music.
But deep down, I never stopped wanting her approval. I think part of the reason I wanted her approval badly was because, in the public’s eye, it seemed like Alex was perfect. It seemed like she had it all together. She was great at school, great at sports, and once her YouTube music career took off, it seemed obvious that her life was going places.
So I was thrilled that after my move to Los Angeles, Alex and I were actually getting to know each other’s hearts for the first time. We were finally learning how to be vulnerable and authentic about our own journeys. It’s not that we didn’t want to share before; I think we just didn’t know what and how exactly to share.
There was not one piece of me that expected a good outcome from revealing my sin to my sister. I genuinely hated who I was for doing it, and I didn’t want to expose myself to her scrutiny. But I felt like the more time I took to tell her the truth, the more I was going to hurt both her and myself.
I didn’t want to wait for another “tomorrow”. I was done waiting. I was done avoiding. I was done hiding from my mistakes. It was time to come to terms with it.
So I got into my car the next morning, blasted “Oceans” by Hillsong to escape my guilt for the moment, and headed straight to my sister’s house. I was going to tell her the truth, but more than that—I was going to tell her goodbye.I took one step into her house and stood there, barely able to articulate my apology and acknowledge how much she was about to hate me for getting romantically involved with her ex-boyfriend. Because I couldn’t get the words out, my sister started guessing. It probably took an hour but when she finally guessed it, I simply nodded.
If you’ve ever experienced grace before—not just knowing what it means, but being shown it firsthand—then you’ll understand how I felt the moment Alex responded to me. All she did was to tell me that she loved me and forgave me. That’s when I told her the whole story—the words that I was so scared of. The words that I thought defined my very being. The words that I was fully prepared to hide for the rest of my life.
Think about the worst thing you’ve ever done, carrying on with it for years, then being completely forgiven and having your slate wiped clean for no logical reason at all. Think about the one person you’re most scared of if he or she were to find out the truth, then having them find out and still love you anyway. Think of that person knowing how broken and shattered you are, and hugging you and loving you anyway. That’s the living definition of grace. That’s the heart of Jesus.
Going on this journey of healing, of reflecting on my past and bringing it to light for others to see, is the greatest experience I’ve ever had. I’m not saying that it’s a joy to feel guilt and make mistakes. But going through it has changed my life.
That said, confessing my mistakes to my sister is not the solution to being forgiven.
Up until the morning of January 5, 2016, I had been under the impression that my sister’s choice to forgive me would decide who I was. In other words, I was making my sister my god. My sister is pretty cool and everything, but in no way should she or any human being ever have that kind of authority over someone’s life. If I had given her the power to truly release me, what would have happened if she didn’t? What would have happened if we didn’t have a relationship afterwards? Would it have meant that I would not have been forgiven?
I fully understand that I have a responsibility to confess where I’m wrong when I’ve hurt someone. But the heart of the matter is that I never actually needed my sister’s forgiveness to be free. Yes, I know that telling her was the right decision, but I also realize that if I had told her and she chose not to forgive me, I would still be forgiven and free. I wouldn’t be condemned, I wouldn’t be trash, I wouldn’t be any of those shameful things that I thought I was.
My sister loving and forgiving me is a beautiful thing that I’m very grateful for. And I’m even more grateful for the grace of God. It blows my mind knowing that He gave me the opportunity to walk in freedom when I repented my sins before Him. Jesus has set me free from sin (John 8:36); shame has no power over me.
Knowing that God, the creator of the world, the all-perfect being who knows every mistake and thought we’ve ever had, loves us more deeply than our tiny human brains will ever be able to fully understand, is a pretty big deal. God doesn’t love a version of ourselves that we feel safe bringing to the table; He loves everything. He loves the cracks, the stains—all of it. That’s a pretty big deal.
My story is proof that we can be free.