“…….but God gave the increase.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:6
Seventeen years later and I still become emotional telling my story of my journey to the cross. Seventeen years later and I am still in awe as I think about how God orchestrated it all. It was a set up. I was not preparing to become a Christian. I was not ready. Yes, I felt God tugging at my heart. Yes, I knew there were people praying on my behalf. Yes, I was interested in learning the bible. But I was not ready to be a Christian. There were some people I needed to let go of. There were some habits I needed to break. There were some things I needed to stop doing. I had to fix me before I could become a Christian.
But God had other plans.
My angel that God sent into my life was preparing to go to Texas to change military careers. I too was preparing to make that trip to Texas. We wanted to travel together but because she was already scheduled for school, in order for us to go together, she would need to delay her trip for two weeks. She did not hesitate. She immediately said she would. I….we were so excited!! We were going to be in Texas….together….for six weeks. Oh the fun we were going to have!!
We departed Philadelphia on October 31, 1999, headed for Sheppard Air Force Base! Because I outranked her I could have had a room to myself. But we wanted to be together. We settled in our room and prepared for our first day of class. Our classmates were great! By the end of the six weeks we had truly become family. But I am getting ahead of myself. First things first……I needed to find a hairdresser. Six weeks is a long time for a girl not to be able to get her hair done. It was as though God himself heard my request. By the end of the day, the instructor of our sister flight shared with us that his wife was a beautician and he gave me her business card. Great! I made an appointment for the following Saturday, November 6.
It was a typical beauty salon. Lots of conversation and laughter taking place. My stylist invited my angel and me to her church. My angel was thrilled. I was thinking about going out that night and partying. My stylist said we had to come because her choir was singing and we would really enjoy them. My angel agreed. I just sat there with the “we will see” look which generally means no I won’t be there. My stylist finished my hair (which was cute by the way) and my angel and I left. We had plans to go out that night and I was looking forward to it.
But God had other plans.
That night we were cruising the town, looking for a place to have a good time. Sadly, we could not pay for fun that night! Every place we went too was a bust!! Wichita Falls, Texas was the most boring town I had ever visited!!! After the third attempt to find a club we decided to give up and head back to the room. I was frustrated. But I had lived long enough to know that sometimes it’s just not meant to be. So I prepared for bed, thinking about sleeping in the next day. As I lay in bed I heard my angel praying. I listened intently. I loved to listen to her pray. I knew God had to be listening to her. She was so sincere. Her words were fluid. It sent chills through me. After she said amen I asked her if she would teach me how to pray. She said she could not teach me how to pray. That prayer is not something that can be taught. It just happens. It’s a conversation between me and God. Because I had no understanding of the Christian life or God or prayer, I said to her with as much attitude as I could muster, “see, that’s why Christian folk make me sick. I ask a simple question and I can’t even get a simple answer.” I turned my back to her and closed my eyes. Her only response was, “ok.”
The next morning I woke up feeling bad. I was sick and the last thing I wanted to do was go to church. My angel went to the store for stockings. She asked me was I going to church and I said with attitude, “NO!” She said ok, and closed the door behind her. As I lay in bed the strangest thing began to happen. There were two conversations going on in my head.
Voice #1: “you don’t have to go to church. You don’t even feel like going to church. You are sick. So stay in bed and rest.”
Voice #2: “get up.”
Voice #1: “You know your stomach is hurting. All you wanted to do anyway was lay in the bed and rest. And now your stomach is hurting really bad. Just stay inside and get better.”
Voice #2: “get up.”
Voice #1: “If you get up and go you are going to be in such a bad mood. Your stomach is going to be hurting too bad to sit up in church. Just stay home. It’s ok.”
Voice #2: “get up.”
I was really confused. By then my angel came back in and she looked at me and then smirked. “What was that about?” I thought. I was angry. I was sick. And she is smirking like something is really funny. My angel put on a gospel CD and prepared for church. I got up and started getting dressed. I did not know why. But I was. It was as though there was an unseen force that was making me get dressed.
Finally we were dressed and walking to church. It was a beautiful day. It was warm and the sun was shining brightly. My angel was walking in front of me. I guess she did not want to deal with the attitude I was giving her. But before long, the voices returned:
Voice #1: “It’s not too late to turn around. You can still go back to the room and get back in the bed.”
Voice #2: “Keep walking.”
Voice #1: “It’s such a beautiful day. You know you do not feel like sitting in a church.”
Voice #2: “Keep walking.”
Before long we arrived at the base chapel and as luck would have it there was a crowd. A line all the way outside. “Oh great!” I said, “Now I have to stand up!” Voice #1 returned and was still trying to talk me out of going inside the church. But the second I stepped in, the voices ceased.
We are standing in line. There must have been 25 people ahead of us. And one of the ushers said, “I have seats for the two of you.” I turned around because surely she was not talking to us. What about the people in front of us. The usher saw the look of confusion on my face and she said, “Yes you.” In a matter of minutes my angel and I were escorted into the sanctuary and seated. I looked to my left and there were two of my classmates seated there. One of them motioned that they had enough room for my angel and I to sit next to them. “Ok, what exactly is going on here? How did we get into the sanctuary with people standing in line in front of us? How is it that my two classmates had two seats right next to them?” It was all very strange to me.
Before long service began. The choir was fabulous! I shared in a previous blog that I love church choirs! People were on their feet singing, clapping their hands, and tapping their feet. It was awesome! After the choir finished singing, a man stepped to the microphone and said, “God is good!” And the congregants responded, “All the time!” The man said again, “God is good!”And like clockwork the congregants responded, “All the time!” By now everyone is clapping and praising God and I felt……warm. The man asked everyone to be seated and he began to share that he was a guest pastor from Korea and the title of his sermon was “How to Pray.” My angel and I looked at one another and I said, “See, this is why I don’t come to church. Every time I set foot in church it’s as though the pastor was a fly on the wall of my life.” She laughed and just said, “ok.”
The message was good. But I was ready to leave. The pastor opened the doors of the church, inviting people to give their life to Christ. He had us close our eyes. And he began to say how today was a good day to surrender our life to Christ. As I listened to him something began to happen inside of me. I felt like there was a battle taking place inside of me. My body started trembling. I started sweating. I could not figure out what was wrong. Was I going to faint? Was I going to be sick. I heard the pastor say, “If you are ready to give your life to Christ raise your hand.” It felt like my hand wanted to go up but there was something holding it down. I was crying at this point and I was terrified of what was taking place inside of me. Suddenly, out of nowhere my angel reached over and touched my hand as if to say, “its ok” and my hand shot up in the air!!!!! At that moment, the battle stopped. Voice #1 went away. My body stopped trembling. I was no longer sweating. And the entire church was clapping. What had just happened? What did I do? I said yes to Jesus. My angel was crying. My classmates were crying. I was crying. I did not understand what had taken place but I knew it was something good. I felt good. I felt peaceful. I felt…….new.
After speaking to some people at the church my angel and I along with our classmates made our way outside. There were other classmates outside as well who embraced me and congratulated me. Everyone was talking but all I could do was look around. My classmate, Ms. Rhonda said, “What’s wrong Shannon?” I said, “is it me…or does everything look brighter?” She said, “it looks that way because you’re seeing it for the very first time.” I was not sure at that moment what she meant. All I knew was that the sky looked bluer, the sun looked brighter, the trees and grass looked greener and the flowers were the prettiest I had ever seen them. It was truly amazing. Almost like I was seeing it all for the first time.
But, I had to hurry back to the room! I had to call my mother! I knew she would be super excited! I was nervous though so I asked my angel if she would talk to her. I dialed the number.
Me: Hi mommy!
Mommy: Hi Chocolate-Chip!! How is mommy’s baby?
Me: I’m fine! My angel has something to tell you.
My Angel: Hi Ms. Theon. I just wanted to tell you that my friend, your daughter, gave her life to Christ today.
At that moment my angel pulled the phone away from her ear and all I heard was my mother screaming: HALLEJUIAH!! HALLEJUIAH!! THANK YOU JESUS!! THANK YOU JESUS!! I took the phone back and in between tears my mommy said, “I HAVE TO CALL YOU BACK!!!” I guess she was happy.
November 7, 1999……a day I will never forget. God orchestrated the entire journey. My mom and others planted. My angel watered. But God gave the increase. I was so fixated on trying to “fix” myself before saying yes to Jesus. But God had other plans.