Throughout my growing up years I identified as a Christian. Though I was far from perfect (obviously), I lived the life of a “good girl,” even by typical Christian standards. “Christianity” was my life. This was the case so much so that I was ready to live (and die) in a foreign land as a missionary.
Fast forward to my 20’s…I went to BIOLA (the Bible Institute of Los Angeles) and continued to pursue the idea of missionary work. In the meantime, I met a wonderful godly man. As time went on, it appeared more prudent to follow him wherever God led, rather than tightly cling to my childhood dreams of adventure.
In 2004 Luke and I were married at the age of 21 and 23.
Soon into marriage, opportunities opened up for Luke to do pastoral ministry. Thus began our many years of ministry together. Except one thing was not quite right. I was not a genuine Christian. I certainly thought I was, and so did everyone else. But as I look back now, I am certain, I was not.
I had never doubted the truthfulness of the Bible. I had no doubt that Jesus came to die for sinners. But the problem was, I didn’t think I was that bad of a sinner. Like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14, I thought I wasn’t as bad as most people. Deep down I figured I was good enough to be on decent terms with God. This kind of thinking showed I didn’t see myself as someone who needed a Savior (and thus was not saved).
Everything changed during a Good Friday service in 2007. We were invited to write our sins down on a small piece of paper before nailing them to a cross. As the pen met the paper, my eyes were opened. The depths of my sin and the reality of my separation from God became evident. For the first time, I truly understood that I, Heather Pace, needed the payment that Jesus took care of for me, on that cross. After years of looking like a Christian, talking like a Christian, and doing ministry as a pastor’s wife, I finally was able to turn from my sin in genuine repentance and faith. I finally was a Christian.
Life changed from there.
Since my life aligned with biblical living in so many ways, my actions and lifestyle weren’t drastically altered. But on the inside, I was very different. My motives shifted from doing godly things for selfish reasons to seeking godly things for God-honoring reasons. Sin and struggle didn’t cease, but fighting sin actually worked. Becoming more holy as a non-Christian is a lot harder, let me tell you! Before conversion, I tried so hard to be the woman I knew I should be, but it felt like an uphill battle that I was climbing all alone. Once God changed my heart, it became an uphill battle with the Spirit pushing me along.
God is good. I could have been blinded to my sin my whole life. I could have kept busy “serving” God to my death (with a variety of self-centered reasons for doing so). But in God’s kindness, he ripped the blinders off my eyes and showed me my need for him. I am, and will forever be, grateful for his amazing love that saved a wretch like me.