Home life growing up was pretty difficult at times. I was raised in a family that, like so many, struggled with the pain of addiction, divorce, and brokenness. At the age of two I was given into the care of my great-grandmother after my mom left my father, as she was lost in a sea of dependency on alcohol and drugs. My great-grandmother did her best to shelter me from a lot of negative influences, but unfortunately they were still there.
No one in my family at the time attended church. My grandmother had gone the Crieve Hall Church of Christ for about 30 years, but by the time I had come along she had already stopped going for quite some time.
My great-grandmother had a strong spiritual influence on my life. Growing up she would tell me all the major stories of the Bible—Adam and Eve, Moses, Joshua, David, Jesus and the 12 disciples. She always told me that one day I would need to be baptized and give my life to Christ. I never really understood why, but I loved and trusted her and kept the things she taught me in my heart, and knew that one day I would become a Christian.
I also never seemed to question the existence of God. Even as we lived in the turbulent world of addiction and co-dependency with an uncle of mine who came to live with us every now and then (when he wasn’t on the street or in jail), against the backdrop of all that drama, I knew there was something more in life, something better. I knew that there was a God and that there was a life better than the one that was being modeled to me at such a young age. Even as a child, I had a sense that there was a Presence with me, that God was looking out for me.
I remember an old picture that used to hang in my great-grandmother’s house. It showed two little children as they were crossing a bridge over turbulent waters. An angel was there with wings outstretched, guarding the children carefully as their little feet crossed the bridge. I will never forget my great-grandmother telling me as a child that we all have guardian angels, looking out for us. I believed her. I knew I was being watched, kept, guarded.
Fast forward about 7 years and that is when some major events began to unfold in my life. We grew up very poor, and as you could imagine, living with a great-grandmother and grandmother, who both lived on Social Security, things were pretty tight financially. To supplement the income for the home, we used to go down to a local Thrift Store and pull things out of their dumpster to sell in yard sales.
We did this for a number of years, and one evening, while I was in the dumpster, at about the age of 13, I found a Bible lying amidst the trash. It was an old King James Version and even though I had no idea how to understand it, there was something in me that felt sympathetic about seeing a Bible in a dumpster. So I picked it up, took it home, and put it on my shelf.
Over the course of the next year I didn’t pay much attention to that Bible. At the time I had had an uncle (a different uncle that the one I described before) who was in prison, and one of the things he would have to do from time to time is send home some of his belongings when he had accumulated too much.
It was around this time that he started sending home some Bible study tapes that churches and ministries had been sending him. They were tapes about Bible prophecy, the book of Revelation, and the End Times. As I began listening to them something stirred deep within me. Honestly the tapes scared me to death. The tapes talked about the possibility of the soon return of Christ, and what scared me was that I knew I was not ready. I knew I was not a Christian, that the things I was doing, even at the age of 13, were wrong and sinful. I wondered what would happen to me if I died. Would I go to heaven or would I go to hell? That question bothered me for some time.
At the age of 14, the next major formative event occurred in my life. My great-grandmother had a stroke and she ended up paralyzed on her left side and was unable to speak or move. She had been rendered bed-ridden. This was an extremely difficult point in my life as she had been my main parental figure ever since I was two. Against the advice of the doctors who told us that we should put my great-grandmother in a nursing home (“After all,” they said, “you don’t want to be burdened with taking care of an old woman, you have your whole life ahead of you.”) my grandmother and I started caring for her at home, and we did so for the next 6 years until her passing in 1999.
About a year after my great-grandmother’s stroke, I really began to think about all the things she used to teach me—about God, the Bible, and about how one day I needed to be baptized and be saved. I took out that old Bible that I had found in that dumpster and began reading it. I listened to more of those tapes about the second coming of Christ and hoped that it would help me understand more of the Bible.
As you could imagine, a 15 year old reading the Book of Revelation, trying to make sense of the King James Version…I didn’t get very far! I remember reading the 4 gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John thinking, “This is so stupid, this book just repeats itself over and over again!” I am glad we serve a patient and gracious God.
I began asking my grandmother lots of questions regarding God, and as best as she could, she tried to answer them all. At some point she called Crieve Hall Church of Christ and asked them if someone there might be able to speak with me and answer some of my question. It just so happened that Crieve Hall had just hired a new youth minister—a man by the name of Tim Frizzell. Little did I know, Tim would not only be the man who would baptize me, but he would also become a mentor and lifelong friend.
I never will forget that day. I showed up at Tim’s office with that old Bible in my hands, with about 100 questions regarding the book of Revelation. I sat down and asked him question after question. He was very gracious. He directed me to what was the more important issue at the moment, of me coming to know Christ and being saved. He opened up the book of Acts and told me that there would be plenty of time to answer my questions with regard to the Book of Revelation, but for now, the text he wanted me to look at was the book of Acts chapter 8 (about the Ethiopian eunuch and his receiving of salvation).
From that text Tim explained the gospel to me, and later that week, I gave my life to Christ.
This is how my journey began, and oh how the journey has continued ever since. Looking back I can now see God’s fingerprints all throughout my life. God was there, every step of the way, and He still is now, guiding and directing my steps.
How has God shown up in your own life? Have you looked at your life through the lens of God’s perspective and seen where His love and guidance has directed you? What are the God-fingerprints that have characterized the twists, turns, and major events of your life? I’d love to hear your story!