God's grace covers woman's sin in a way clothes could not
By CAROLYN NICHOLS
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ROCKLEDGE (FBW)—For Cathleen Gray, "becoming a new creation" began with her salvation in 1996. She gladly now testifies that indeed "old things pass away" and "all things become new."
Although her friends and family know about the "old things" in her life, acquaintances are stunned to learn the demure Florida pastor's wife, in her pre-Christians days, worked as a dancer in the adult entertainment industry.
"God has absolutely restored everything He meant for me to be, and He's given me a platform to share His grace," Gray told Florida Baptist Witness.
Gray wrote Good Morning, Beautiful to encourage other women who may be struggling with past sins and depression. The 40-day devotional journal includes studies on Bible concepts that enabled her restoration. She tells her readers, "I had to share my life lessons with you."
The youngest of four children of a Catholic family in Cocoa Beach, Gray's religious training, she said, taught her about Jesus, but not about her need for salvation. She described her family as hard-working and loving, and herself as "a child of the 80's," part of the MTV generation who idolized Madonna and her music. She was a "party girl" in high school, but "lonely deep down and looking for security and love," she said.
"I was totally sucked into the world and trying to find myself," Grey remembered. "I was told I needed to find a career, but I always remember wanting to be a mom, and I wanted to teach dance."
In love with a fellow student at Georgia Southern College, Gray said she was heart-broken when he ended the relationship. She also chose to have the first of two abortions before returning home to Florida.
"I didn't want to do it, but I believed the lie that it wasn't a child," Gray said.
Returning home to Cocoa Beach and to her hard-partying life, Gray enrolled in community college to study dance. While teaching dance at a local community center, she was introduced by old friends to stripping as "performance art."
Soon after, Gray launched a career as a nude dancer at a "high end club where there was no touching," and soon began traveling as a headliner at clubs. She also embarked on a double life in which her family knew nothing of her dancing career. She met her husband, Ken, through friends who also were in the dark about her career. The two fell in love at first sight, she said. Even as a non-Christian, Ken Gray was "bothered by what I did," she said.
Cathleen Gray's parents had become Christians, and began telling their wayward daughter about the Savior. Ken Gray's parents also were committed Christians. The influence of both couples persuaded Cathleen Gray that God existed and the possibility of a personal relationship with Him was real.
"Even in a club I felt God's presence, and I felt Him tugging at my heart saying 'You can't go on like this,'" she recalled.
Lying in bed one night, Gray said she cried out to God, "Lord, save me. Make me new."
God answered her prayer and immediately began restoring her life. She forsook her dance career, and married—and began praying for—Ken Gray's salvation. Within a few weeks of his salvation at First Baptist Church in Cocoa Beach, Ken said he felt God's calling to the ministry, and the young couple moved to Toccoa Falls College in Georgia.
But even as her dream of being a mother came true, Gray said the consequences of her past sins brought her to her knees.
"I was going to be pastor's wife, I had a one-year-old and I couldn't get out of bed," Gray said. "I couldn't function."
A Christian counselor, intensive study in God's Word, and a year's healing enabled her to recover from "post abortion stress syndrome."
In Good Morning Beautiful, Gray says God's Word "is like salve applied to a fresh wound. It relieves and comforts. It fights infection and heals. It eases the pain, especially when the Holy Spirit comes in, applies a bandage, and seals it with a kiss."
With a rare perspective, the 35-year-old pastor's wife cautions fellow Baptists to avoid harsh rhetoric on the abortion issue. Although she terms abortion "a horrific sin," she intimately knows the pain of what she saw as a hopeless choice.
"We need to focus less on the process of abortion, and more on the women and young girls who have this sin in their pasts," Gray said. "Before you pass judgment, put a face on the issue."
Today, Cathleen Gray home schools her three daughters in their home in Rockledge, where her husband is pastor of Faith Baptist Church. She also teaches dance in her home and in a local church.
The young mother said she does not fear other Christians' reactions to her testimony, although she said the promotion of her book has brought new attention to her past.
"All I can say is this is my life now. It is where my testimony is," Gray said. "I am a trophy of God's grace."
For more information on Good Morning, Beautiful, go to www.cathleengray.com or www.winepressgroup.com.