One Year Later...

*This blog has been written out of the sincerity of my heart. Writing is usually natural for me but this particular blog took me quite some time to process and write. I know that some will judge its content and others will find it healing. To be honest, I wrote it more for my own healing and reflection than for anyone else. God knows my heart and ultimately He is my audience. Hopefully it will give those who care a glimpse into what God has been doing in my heart this past year. So here it is:

 January 9th 2011 was the most difficult day of my life to this point.

On that day, I walked off the stage of Grace Point Church for the last time.  Ironically, my last Sunday as the Founding Pastor of Grace Point was also our 5-year anniversary as a church.  Grace Point is a vision God planted in my heart years earlier that became a reality in 2006 when about 135 people gathered in a middle school cafeteria in North Las Vegas and Grace Point Church was officially born.  

For over six years, Grace Point Church was my life. I loved it. I lived it. I breathed it. I was obsessed with it. And then suddenly, it was gone. Because of my own selfish and sinful choices, I forfeited the right to lead the very church God birthed in my heart years earlier.  In a few days time, everything Devin Hudson related (name, sermons, videos, etc) were erased from the website of a church that exists because of a God call in my heart. I didn't even have the opportunity to say goodbye. And it all happened for one reason: my sin.

The last official thing I did as the Lead Pastor of Grace Point Church was share the gospel. After a day of celebration and reflection on our 5+ year journey, I shared the gospel one final time, walked off the stage, collapsed in the arms of a friend, and wept like a baby knowing my life would never be the same - and there was no one to blame but me.

On that same day, I had the toughest conversations I have ever had in my life as my secret sin and its subsequent consequences were revealed to my family, friends, and those God had entrusted me to lead and serve. I will NEVER forget the cries of anguish from my kids on that day. Even as I type the words, that memory still hurts my heart deeply and brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. I do not wish that feeling and experience on anyone. I live every day with that memory.

One year ago, everything I knew professionally and personally was forever changed. The hurt I felt and caused can not be explained. It can only be experienced. I live with the reality of my choices every single day. I hurt more people than I even know. Everything I was and am was called into question. As I have heard it said many times, "It takes years to build a reputation but only a moment to destroy it."

Since that fateful day last January, my life has been filled with a lot of ups and downs. I have gone through a divorce. Relocated. Remarried. And taken my place in life outside the "ministry" world I had known so long. My life now is a direct result of a cycle of selfish choices. For an extended period of time, I allowed my heart to wander from the God who planted that initial vision in my heart. Eventually it caused me to develop and live a pattern of sinful decisions that disqualified me from the church I started from scratch. In short, I became a statistic.

To say that this year has been difficult would be an extreme understatement. No one knows the pain, hurt, regret, guilt, and remorse that we have been through. As the old adage goes, "until you walk a mile in another person's shoes..."  And yet through the immensity of the pain and severity of the consequences, God never stopped pursuing and loving me.

I plan to write some blogs over the next few days/weeks on the life lessons God has been teaching me but for now, here is a summary of my "one year later" thoughts.

Protect your heart. Bottom line: I did not guard my heart and I fell prey to sin's temptation. As the Proverbs warn, "Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it are the sources of life." If you do not protect your heart with vigilance then you will fall - at some level and in some way.

Your character is more important than your image. I surprised a lot of people when my sin was exposed. I did a good job creating an image that everything was great in my life while my heart was far from God in so many ways. My image was very important to me - more important to me than my character. And for that reason, I lied, covered up things, and scrambled to protect my image. If I had been as concerned with my character as I was my image, then I would have worked harder to protect the things that are the most important in life.

Jesus followers can make bad decisions. Only those who have been through the type of life experience we have been through can understand how you can 1) love Jesus, 2) love His church, and 3) allow sin to take a prominent place in your life.  If you had asked me a few years ago if I was capable of falling into this trap, I would have wanted to believe I was not. And yet here I am. I fell into a cycle of sin that resulted in some horrible decisions. Yet I never stopped loving Jesus. I can list a hundred reasons why I ended up where I did and God is helping me process how I ended up there so I never end up there again. I have learned the hard way that Jesus followers can make bad decisions. That's why our salvation is continually being worked out in our lives. The gospel must continually transform our hearts into the image of Jesus.

Sin's consequences are harsh. I've heard a lot of talk about consequences the last year. Everyone seems to have an opinion on what consequences I should or should not face. And truthfully, only those who go through something like this can grasp the depth of sin's consequences. Deserved or undeserved - consequences still hurt.  Remember that truth when you want to passively dismiss someone's consequences as what they deserve. The pain is still real. Jesus came to take sin's consequences and thankfully He embraced our most severe consequence of all - our deserved death. I live everyday of my life with my consequences. Thankfully the gospel redeems them for His glory.

Repentance can be a process. I recently wrote on this subject here. The only thing I will repeat here is that repentance is a necessary and continual component in the healing of our hearts and it must be grounded in the goodness and grace of the God who forgives.

God is the God of second chances. This statement has never been more real to me. God gives second chances (and third, fourth, fifth, etc). God never gives up on us and pursues us relentlessly. I am more grateful than ever that God's love for me never changes. When others gave up on me, He did not. That truth amazes me.  It is God's second chance grace that I now embrace for my life, my marriage, and my future.

Sin is big - Grace is bigger. Romans 5:20 is the cornerstone verse upon Grace Point Church was founded. "Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more." It is an easy verse to quote but a difficult verse to believe and live. Over the past few months, God has taught me more than ever that my heart is far more sinful than I imagined and yet His grace is far bigger than I imagined.

God is my final Judge. I have learned this lesson the hard way. For much of my life I have been consumed with what people think about me. In recent months, God has taught repeatedly, "Devin stop worrying about what labels others give you and focus on who you are in me." This truth has been liberating for me. I wrote a blog on labels where I talked about how crippling human labels can be and yet how empowering God's labels are. I am learning to live in who I am in Jesus and be less concerned with how others judge me. By the way, no matter what steps you take it will not satisfy everyone so do what God calls you to do and leave the response in His hands.

Forgiveness is a process. Just like repentance can be a process, so can forgiveness. I am not sure what complete and genuine forgiveness looks like when you hurt people so deeply. I have experienced it in Jesus and through some of His followers. I know that a lot of us tend to forgive in a "I forgive you but..." kind of way. I'm so thankful Jesus doesn't forgive that way. He not only forgives but pursues intimate relationship. The New Testament calls us to a "as Jesus forgives" type forgiveness but I realize forgiveness is also a process. I don't pretend to have this tension figured out. In the end I must trust Jesus to bring healing and believe that ultimately genuine forgiveness will prevail.

Guilt and remorse are heavy burdens. There is a line in Crowder's rendition of How He Loves Us that declares, "I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves us." Those words are powerful when applied to real life. Living with guilt and remorse is something I do every day and yet God continually calls me to lay aside my guilt and embrace His healing love. As time passes, I am learning to allow Him to bear the weight of my guilt and find my freedom in His forgiveness.

Being Jesus to fallen Jesus followers is tough. God has put some incredible people in my life. One of the first blogs I wrote after I felt God wanted me to start writing again reminds us that our tendency is to defriend sinners and the tendency of Jesus was to befriend sinners. It is one of my most read blogs ever. I believe it resonates with so many because being Jesus to fallen Christians (particularly leaders) is a difficult challenge. I am so thankful that God put people in my life to love me through the good and bad. People responded a lot of different ways to my sin. Not one person ever condoned or excused what I did or was doing. But only a handful of people were able to say "Devin - I love you and regardless of what I think about your sin I will continue to love you and be there for you." Even in my most sinful and prideful moments, those people loved me in a way that pointed to Jesus. Ultimately their love for me was a huge part of my healing process.  They refused to walk away even when I didn't return their phone calls or respond as I should have and as a result God used them far beyond what they realize.  Be Jesus to people - even when it is tough and unnatural - they will not forget it.

God makes beauty out of ashes. That statement speaks for itself. 

The last year of my life has taught me so much about me and more importantly about God. I am continuing to find healing in my relationship with God, my children, my family, and my friends. I do not wish what I have been through this year on anyone. And yet through it all, God has proven faithful, loving, and forgiving. I pray I will continue to discover who He is and who I am in Him.

If you are reading this blog and find yourself in a situation similar to where I was, take the necessary steps to find repentance and restoration. It is not too late. Reach out to someone. Reach out to me if you want. I get it! Don't become a statistic.

One year later ... He is still the God who loves, saves, heals, forgives, and restores. And I now understand that truth more than ever.

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