“I don’t believe in that voodoo-hoodoo Christianity stuff. No such thing as ghosts or spirits or any of that supernatural mumbo jumbo. What you see is what you get,” I announced confidently to my girlfriend as I sat on a marble tombstone at midnight in the dark, deserted cemetery. I wasn’t scared one bit.
It was a Friday night double-date, and our dates had double-dog dared us to climb the dark hill and tag a tombstone at the top. They were waiting for us in the car.
“So being here in this cemetery at night doesn’t bother you at all?” she asked, looking around nervously.
“Of course not.” I laughed. “I’ll race you to the car.” And with that, I dashed down the hill, leaving my friend scrambling around in the darkness, yelling at my back not to leave her.
It’s hard to say exactly when I realized I needed proof of things I couldn’t see. I’d never been afraid of dark or spooky situations. Santa Claus had always seemed suspicious, and a tooth fairy? C’mon.
But if I had to guess when my need to see and touch things before I believed in them began, it was at ten years old when my world changed forever.
I was in the fourth grade, and my mother showed up at school one day to check me out of class early. Two things made this a most unusual occurrence. First, she and my dad both worked six days a week in retail. They made barely enough money for our family to live on. I knew she’d had to take a day off to come get me. In addition, she was adamant that my sister and I not miss school.
As she drove back to our house, she began by saying there was something important she needed to tell me. Somehow I knew that whatever I was about to hear would change my life.
“Your daddy is not really your father,” she said. “Your father has been overseas since you were born, and he’s coming to the house today because he’s demanding to meet you.”
Boom. Just like that, my life turned upside down. Everything I had believed to that point was most emphatically not true. Apparently, my mother and my real father had divorced when I was a baby. My mother remarried when I was a toddler. She had talked her second husband into presenting himself—to me and the rest of the world, apparently—as my real father. I had never suspected anything different.
I rode along silently, looking out the window. The news sank in, and nothing seemed real anymore. We arrived home a few minutes later, and almost immediately, there was a knock at the door. Mother opened it and unceremoniously introduced the man standing there. “Carole, this is your father.”
With that, she left the room, leaving me alone with this complete stranger.
In retrospect, there’s no way to know if I would have turned out to be a rebellious teenager without this revelation, but I changed dramatically after that. Since I could make great grades without much effort, that part of my resume never suffered—but I happily managed to get into one scrape after another.
My parents were entrenched in churchy stuff, and I could hardly wait to get away from home so I wouldn’t have to attend anymore. My stepdad seemed genuine, but my mother? I guess I held her responsible for the hurt and disappointment I had experienced that fateful day.
I was determined that once I left home, I’d never darken the door of a church again. That stuff was not for me—just a bunch of hypocrites, smiling on Sunday and stabbing you in the back on Monday. I soon found out, however, that life is big and full of problems.
I moved from one unstable relationship to the next, until finally I was 30 years old, alone, with a son and no real career or good job opportunities. My life was a mess, and I knew it. I just didn’t know what to do about it.
One night I was alone in my house, and I began to cry—that sort of sobbing cry that doesn’t seem like it will end. I had no prospects of any good life, I told myself. I had nothing. I took a good look at who I was and what I had done, and I didn’t like any of it. Dark thoughts set in. I knew if something happened to me, my son would go to his father, who had remarried, and they would provide him with a good home.
At some point in life, you have to realize that what happened to you in the past or what your parents or some other person did to you doesn’t matter anymore. You have to let that go. You have to decide what you’re going to do with the life you have now. I knew that, but the thought made me weep all the more.
My life was a total zero. I had done nothing of value. I had thought only of myself and the wrongs that had been done to me.
As I wept, still examining myself and the mistakes I’d made, suddenly I saw the most amazing image in my mind. Understand—I was awake; this was not a dream. It was a picture in my mind’s eye.
I was standing in a barren desert, and I could see charred, barren mountains in the background, smoldering as if from a recent fire. Somehow, I knew this scene represented my life: unproductive, futile, lacking of value, barren.
Then I turned, and on the desert floor in front of me was a shining ball of blinding white light. I knew it was a sign from a Supreme Being, and these words formed in my mouth: “I belong to You. Take me, mold me.” Then the light was gone—it hadn’t lasted more than a split second, but that split second represented eternity.
A thousand pounds lifted from my shoulders. I slept for the first time in weeks. When I awoke the next morning, an unfamiliar sense of well-being surrounded me.
As I fixed breakfast for my son, I suddenly felt a tremendous warmth. At first I thought it was the heat from the stove, so I stepped back to get away from it. But to my amazement, I could still feel it, like a blanket surrounding me. That feeling of warmth lasted nearly three days.
In the months that followed, one incredible thing after another happened to me. Through a remarkable series of events, a well-known magazine hired me as an editor, and it became a career that lasted nearly 15 years. In addition, I met some people who invited me to their church. I went the first Sunday with tremendous trepidation, but they were kind and made me feel welcome.
Through their love and genuine caring, I began to see the Bible in a completely different light. The more I read and gave the Bible an honest examination, the more I understood what had happened to me on that incredible night alone in my house when I was at the end of my rope. Jesus had revealed Himself to me. Of all the things that could have happened, God had allowed me a split second–a supernatural moment that provided the bridge over which I could cross—and He was waiting for me on the other side.
Do you see the grace He extended to me? I would never have accepted Him otherwise, because I could not see or touch Him, and my history and my own confused mind were preventing me from understanding Him. I needed something I could see and touch, a supernatural experience that would show me the truth of who He is. And in His gracious kindness and love, He gave me that moment.
How do I thank Him for that? How do I thank Him for His Son, Jesus Christ, who went to the cross and received all my mistakes, all my sins, into His own body? I will spend the rest of my life dedicated to Him, praising Him, loving Him, serving Him, and telling others about Him. Jesus is real. Supernaturally. Totally. Full-of-life real. And He wants to come to you also.
You won’t have the same experience I had; instead, He will tailor your experience to what you need, to what will make the most impact on you. It might even come through my story. But it will probably begin the same way mine did. When you admit that life is hard, that you can’t do it alone, that people have failed you, that you have failed yourself, that you have done very little, if anything, good—when you admit that you are out of options, that’s when He will be there.
Actually, He’s there now—waiting with outstretched arms, waiting with love and forgiveness and grace. Don’t wait another moment. Go to Him now.