As a child, I was blessed with parents who loved me deeply and unconditionally. Through my many phases, moods, and many painful mistakes, my parents were always there for me. I always felt loved and accepted.
I was not raised in a "Christian" home. My parents' impressed upon me and my siblings the importance of being well educated and self-sufficient. There was much emphasis placed on the importance of possessing inner strength. I was taught to rely on myself and to find my own answers. My parents encouraged me to get the most out of life and to be responsible for my own happiness. The message was clear growing up; you create your own destiny.
While this mindset helped me to become a responsible, self-sufficient adult, it also led to a rather self-centered lifestyle. I was established in my career at the tender age of twenty-four. I drove a new BMW and lived in an adorable house by myself. My earnings allowed me to buy the things I loved. In my own limited vision, I had it all together. My life seemed great...until the day that changed everything in my world.
It was in October of 1984 when I got the phone call that my dad had been rushed to the Emergency Room. I was told to get there as quickly as possible. When I arrived, I learned that my dad had shot himself in the head. Overwhelmed with so many emotions...pain, confusion, shock, disbelief, fear...I had only my "inner strength" to fall back on. And I began to see weak and futile this source of "strength" actually was.
How could this happen? This was my dad! We shared a close father-daughter relationship. I looked up to him for stability, security, and support. He was a genius (literally) and I fiercely respected him. I was also working for my dad. I had made the choice to follow in his footsteps and make the family advertising research business my chosen career. Now, my dad...my boss...my friend was comatose in ICU because of an impulsive decision to end his own life.
The doctors explained how the bullet had ricocheted repeatedly throughout his brain. Virtually all of his brain was destroyed in the process. There was no hope for his survival. Even the parts of the brain that control breathing and heart function were wiped out. Clearly, life support would be a futile attempt to hold onto someone who was already gone. We chose to let him go in peace. The only tubes connected to him were those that monitored his condition. His body was shutting down. The medical staff thought he might live for an hour or two at most.
Minutes went by, then hours. The ICU staff were amazed he was still alive. About twelve hours after he shot himself, my sister and I went in to see him and say goodbye to our dad. We held his hands and told him we loved him, we understood if he needed to leave us, and that we were there for him. As we spoke to him, his hands tightened around ours. His breathing and heart rate increased. A tear streamed down his cheek. How could a man who was brain dead respond like this? The ICU nurse was speechless. That memory is forever cemented in my mind.
My dad lived for about thirty-six hours before he left this world. Those hours erased all of my empty, self-absorbed philosophies and left me with nothing but a worthless foundation. I was haunted by the sudden realization that we had to be more than just our physical bodies. If this was true, then maybe we did possess souls. And if we possessed souls, did that mean that there really was a God? And if there really was a God, what did that mean for my dad...and for me?
I love how God meets us right where we are in life. He doesn’t expect us to get spiritual on our own. He doesn’t wait for us to be worthy enough to know Him. The night of my dad’s death, God began to show Himself to me. Death and destruction came face to face with the living God, and souls were being saved.
I had many questions after my dad died, and as I searched for answers, God placed in me a hunger to know Him. My search began in the New Age movement. On my first trip in to one of their bookstores, I left with a Bible in hand. Over the next few months, it was only when I held the Bible that I had any real peace. I tried to read it, but none of it made much sense to me. But the simple act of grasping onto it brought such tangible comfort.
My sister and I joined a Bible Study a few months later. They were studying the book of Luke. As I read and learned, it felt as if all of the pieces to a very large, complex puzzle were coming together for the first time. I knew that what I was reading was the truth and that God was calling me into a relationship with Him. What an amazing thing!
I think it’s noteworthy that, at the time, I did not have any kind of a relationship with any Christians. No one was there to minister to me, guide me, encourage me, or to pray with me. God revealed Himself to me directly through His word and drew me to Him. What an amazing God!
God entered my life in a very powerful, personal, and direct way. He did not need people witnessing to me. He did not need a church pastor reaching out to me. All of those would have been nice! All He really needed was to get my attention. In spring of 1985, I surrendered my life to God. One year later, I walked "down the aisle" with no earthly father to give me away on my wedding day. Instead, I had my heavenly Father right by my side, guiding me every step of the way.
"Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy."
~1 Peter 3:15, The Message