A Prodigal Daughter

I was nurtured by a loving Christian Family. I was raised with the conscious knowledge of who God is and trained to live right in my younger years. Although I was blessed with so much love and care and was fed by concepts about the Lord, still, I chose to rebel against my parents and live a double life.

It started out when I went out secretly with a boy. I would use different kinds of lies just to meet up with him. This practice of deception taught me to masturbate, and unfortunately, it stimulated me to engage in premarital sex.  The moment I involved myself in this situation, insecurity, greed, selfishness, and pride automatically took over my life. I hated to hear correction from others. Failing to see my flaws, I would blame them whenever something went wrong in my life.

I regularly compared myself to other people and made false stories just to have the results I wanted. I went to church regularly and engaged actively in the worship team and in youth campus ministry, but in reality, I didn’t have Christ in my life. I fell into a pit of my own making.

I was branded by those who knew me as hard-headed and rebellious; an attention-seeker and a troublemaker. Sadly, these traits were indeed visible in my life. I was blind; I couldn’t see my weaknesses because of the sins that entangled me. I secretly satisfied the craving of my flesh by a forbidden no-label relationship with a boy I knew my parents would not approve of—had they known. I lived in lies, pretense, and hypocrisy.

 

Giving Up the Boy I Loved

One summer, I decided to join a Christian youth camp. During the last night of that event, the Lord convicted me of my sins through His Word. While crying in repentance, God showed me a vision of all the things the boy had given to me such as jewelry, clothes, and gadgets. He impressed upon my heart that I had to give them all back to the boy. I knew that at that moment, in the most personal way, God was inviting me to pursue Him by letting the boy, my Number 1 idol, go. It was an invitation to start walking a life of purity, integrity, and a renewed identity with my Creator.

I encountered one of the hardest decisions I needed to make, but the most life-changing choice.  I was not brave enough to say “yes” to the Lord that night. I struggled and battled with myself for about a week. I became tired of battling and decided to take a backseat and be very honest with God. I finally said, “Lord, without this boy, I can still move forward; but without you, I cannot live my life. Today, even though it is hard, I choose You. I will obey.”

 After that very sincere appointment with the Lord, God gave me the grace and courage to return all the gifts that were given to me by the boy and to let him go. I was so broken. I felt that something really big was lost in my heart.

I stayed in my room most of the time, mourning and feeling the pain of losing someone so valuable. In spite of this, I focused my attention on reading the Bible as well as the book, The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. When I felt the attack of loneliness, I fought this by reading the truth.

 One afternoon, as I finished a chapter from The Purpose Driven Life, I was awestruck when I read the lines, “I love you and I delight in you.” These words became so personal and powerful; they pierced my longing heart. The Lord of all hosts told me that He loved me and that He delighted in me. He consumed me with His perfect love, comforted me with His incomparable grace, and revived me with His unchanging commitment—even though I didn’t deserve it. At that very moment, I encountered the Lover of my soul. He met me in the most amazing way. He gave me liberty from all my insecurities, forgave me for all the lies I had said in the past, and created in me a clean heart and a renewed spirit.

Because of this radical encounter with God, I joyfully decided to invest my time in God’s service, making my goal to radiate God’s love to people in any way.

These photos were taken during our outreach in Bohol

Everything in my life changed– how I treated my family, how I reacted to circumstances, and how I put effort into any task I had to do. I started taking responsibility and not blaming anyone for my mistakes. I began discipling my one and only sister with love. I joyfully financed my family and submitted to the people of authority in my life.  I let go of offenses and started to pray for those who hurt me. In fact, I felt elated to help them! I started to work with God. He was now my Number 1 motivation in life. I saw Him sustain me.

Indeed, if we walk in obedience, we will be successful. The work of our hands will be blessed because God is with us. This doesn’t mean that all will go well, or we will never face storms; but it means that God will take us through the storms successfully.

Approximately a year after the heartbreak of letting the boy go, I was soon pursued by a man of God who followed the right process of asking for my hand. We became partners in the ministry.

Through his life, I have come to know God more. His life radiates God’s grace. He even chooses to forget the faults of people who have hurt him in the past. He studies the word of God diligently and cheerfully shares it with me. This has led me to understand more of the unmerited grace of salvation which I received from the LORD.

God Redeems My Love Story

Last December 2012, this man and I started our journey as a couple. Here’s the catch: this man of God who pursued me faithfully was the same man whom God commanded me to let go. This time, he and I were different versions of ourselves. We never made any move to restore anything romantic, but it was the Lord who orchestrated a wonderful love story between us.

We were in the same ministry and the same discipleship group. We flowed in friendship and then one day, God told Benjie to pursue me. This time, Benjie followed the right process. He asked permission from my parents, and we received their blessing. Benjie courted me and visited me at home. Whenever he did, my whole household got very excited and giddy. We would eat out and assess our relationship every “monthsary” so we could pinpoint things to improve. Benjie finally proposed to me with the help of close friends and some of the youth from church. We followed the right process from our courtship to marriage.

If the old versions of us were addicted to the cravings of the flesh, the renewed versions of us were “addicted” to do things for God’s name and fame.  I learned that when we give someone up to the Lord, He brings in someone else– a better one—into our lives (may it be a better person or a better version of that person). In my case, God gave me a redeemed, restored, and renewed man who was and is intimately in love with HIM.

Benjie was my first boyfriend and joyfully my last. Everything was pure when He entered my life this second time around—pure thoughts, pure intentions, pure motivations, pure plans; so different from before! Both of us have received God’s unchanging love.

When I said yes to Benjie’s proposal for marriage, I never thought of asking anything from him because my mindset had been renewed. No longer did I want to receive love and affection anymore, but I looked forward to give to Benjie just as Jesus gives. Yes, I couldn’t wait to give myself to Benjie— to serve him, support him, and be an effective helpmate.

Last January 1, 2019, Benjie and I joyfully and publicly declared our commitment for each other. We were amazed to have witnessed God’s favor on our wedding day. He gave us wonderful weather despite the rainy season, a group of international singers who led the call to worship, anointed officiating ministers, and genuine friends who rejoiced with us. God’s manifest presence was there with us during the entire ceremony.

God ordained our steps wonderfully. We lived separately from our parents right after the wedding and was blessed abundantly by the Lord. All the things we needed to survive, including the things we wanted, were provided by the LORD. After two months of living together, we started to desire a baby, and God graciously granted that desire. We gave birth to a cute baby girl last December 11, 2019.

Benjie and April at their wedding

Family picture of author

In a nutshell, following Christ in one’s romance is not easy. He prunes us for us to bear fruit. He refines us for us to be pure. He breaks us for us to be made new. My season of breaking was my season of refining. I thought I lost everything the moment I surrendered Benjie to God, but I was wrong. I found the man of my dreams, but more than that, I found my ONE THING—God Himself!

 “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10

April Jane Sales, PhD

Dr. April Jane G. Sales graduated as Doctor of Philosophy in English, major in Language from the University of San Jose Recoletos. She labors fervently in whatever she does because she works not just for men, but for God. She is instrumental in answering the quest of excellence in the 21st century academe.