Today is my favorite anniversary. June 10, 1970 was the day God captured my heart. If you will indulge me I will share my story.
I came from a home of tremendous dysfunction. My mother was an alcoholic from my age of six until I was sixteen. My dad was an absentee dad in many ways. My mother was the abuser not my father. My mother desperately needed my dad to love her but he did not know how. My parents did not have a happy marriage and they separated when I was fifteen and divorced when I was sixteen.
I was my mother’s enabler. As the oldest of three all the responsibility fell on me during the years my mother was an alcoholic. I had no choice! You do what you are told no matter what. I learned to mix her orange juice and vodka together for her screwdrivers around age eleven. I soon began to take a sip or two to see what it tasted like. I liked it. However, I did not begin drinking regularly until I was fifteen.
By the age of fifteen I was getting into a bar in downtown Memphis called The Thunderbird Lounge. I don’t remember how but I do remember I drank a drink called a Harvey Wallbanger. I say they named it so because after you had one or two you would feel like banging your head against a wall. At that same age I was found by Memphis’s Vice Squad drinking with some friends in a 1965 Mustang in Green Trees subdivision in Memphis before it had been developed. I was not embarrassed but I was mad that they would take me home to a mom who was drunk in bed. I told them that she was a drunk and they were wasting their time trying to talk to her.
When I was fifteen I also made a feeble attempt at overdosing when I was in the ninth grade while I was at school. Some of my classmates told my Home Economics teacher what I had done. I did not need medical care I was only drowsy. It is always a good day when you are unsuccessful at overdosing. This precious teacher stayed with me until I felt better and then drove me home. This event was when the very first seed was sown for my future salvation. This teacher and a dear friend today wrote a prayer on an index card and gave it to me. It read as follows: “Everyday in every way by the grace of God I am getting better and better.” I read that little prayer for two and one half years daily before Jesus changed my life.
The next person who was instrumental in my life changing was someone in high school who invited me to come to a Young Life meeting. Young Life was and still is a Christian ministry to reach teenagers and introduce them to Christ. I went to these meetings at my high school weekly and never stopped going. How thankful I am for that.
Now the entire time I attended these off campus meetings at a host home I still did not know the Lord. But I felt accepted there and so I stayed. Then opportunity came to go to camp in June of 1970. I wanted to go. I assure you it was not for any spiritual reason. It was a chance to get away from the craziness that was going on in my life. I had no relationship then with my mom. My dad had suffered a stroke the year before and was still in a hospital and I was living with my aunt and uncle. I guess they felt sorry for me. But for whatever reason it was a good, safe place for me.
While I lived there my uncle shared with me that my mother had been going to Alcoholics Anonymous and was sober. Hmm, a mom that was not drunk anymore communicated to me that maybe she wouldn’t be cruel to me and maybe would love me. So I went back home to live with her. The storybook ending did not happen with my mom but my life was weeks away from a miracle!
It is camp time! I heard that other schools from Young Life in Waco, Texas would be with us and the boys were HOT so I was really ready to go. We loaded up the Greyhound and away we went for our two-day trip to Colorado. I had my radar ready to find the cute guys and my cigarettes in my purse. I have no memory of what happened to those either.
We finally arrived in beautiful Colorado at Frontier Ranch in Buena Vista. Let me say it was a divine set-up indeed. I cannot remember everything that happened that week. I remember mountain climbing, a dance night where we drew names for our partner and I had a guy shorter than me….really? There were activities each day. Every night led up to the final night….Friday night. They had been baiting the hooks all week in hopes of catching some young people for Jesus.
We are all sitting around in such a nice rustic looking mountain lodge waiting for our evening message. I actually do not remember any of the previous ones but this one changed my life. Carl Nelson the regional director of Young Life for the Memphis is bringing the message. For the first time in my entire life I heard the message of the Cross. I never knew this story. How? How can you be living in the belt buckle of the Bible belt and never know? But I didn’t. I heard what it cost Jesus. I heard of His agony. I heard of His passion. But most of all I heard of His love. His love for me….ME! I had never had that feeling before. The message is over and our instructions are for silence. Do not speak while you are leaving or when you return to your cabin. You are to ponder the words you heard. Like Mary pondered words spoken to her that were life changing I was pondering words that were life changing.
I entered the cabin and dove head first into my bunk bed and cried. Only Jesus heard my prayer…..”Jesus, come into my heart and make me clean.” See, I felt dirty. I had done dirty things, said dirty things, thought dirty things. The very moment I whispered those words I knew I was different inside. No doubt about it!
After our time of silence was over we gathered with our counselor and piled up on all our bunks and the question was posed….”Does anyone have anything they would like to share?” Like a bullet out of a gun chamber I said “Yes! I got saved tonight.” Oh yes, I did and I have never been the same.
I purchased a Phillips paraphrase Bible from the little gift shop and read it all the way home on the bus. I could not get enough. It was so much fun to read that Good News.
Now the past forty-seven years have not been a cake walk. Not everything has turned out the way I had expected. Not every prayer has been answered the way I wanted. Not everything in my life is perfect nor am I but my spirit is. It is filled up with Jesus. I am still overwhelmed by His great love for me and I am heaven bound.
I hope you have discovered there is no life outside of Jesus. He is the only answer for our problems. The song Andre Crouch sang said…”Jesus is the answer, for the world today, above Him there’s no other, Jesus is the way.” You can trust Him with your heart so give it to Him.
Living by the brook,