I love how the Lord guides us.
He directs our steps even when we aren’t aware that He is leading us. At the onset of the summer of 1981 I turned away from the Lord. Thankfully it didn’t last long. It lasted long enough for me to alter my life in unchangeable ways. Shortly after I turned away I met a man. I was twenty-two years old at the time. I didn’t know anything about dating. I came from a terribly dysfunctional family who were better at dictating demands at each other rather than living in the love of Christ. I was a screwed up mess and very unhappy. I was in a slump and in that slump I turned away from God. In a moment of desperation I agreed to marry a man I hardly knew. And only days after we were married he decided we were going to Texas. We had no money, no means of support, no prospects. Not only did we not have any prospects in Texas, we didn’t know anyone in Texas. Why this man thought going to Texas was a good idea I’ll never know. God knew, but I didn’t.
After a brief stay in Nachadoches, Texas we headed for Houston. Again, WHY? I don’t know. I didn’t get a say so. This guy decided we were going, so off we went. I was 1200 miles away from home. I had no money, no friends, no life of my own. I was in bondage but I didn’t know it. My life was in a bad place. I wanted out but I felt like I was a prisoner. I was tied to a man I didn’t know. I was scared. I was alone. I didn’t turn to God because I didn’t think he cared. I had forgotten everything I had ever known about the love of God. I was not just far from home, I was far from God.
We lived in the car and drove from one parking lot to another until we got invited to leave. Then one day, while sitting in the parking lot of a church on the southwest side of Houston, I heard the voice of the Lord. “Betty, you’ll never go a day without food. I will always be with you.” Those were pretty important words considering that we had no money to eat and no way of getting any. Somehow my husband managed to come back with a job. He got hired on as a maintenance worker at the hospital across the street from the church.
We still didn’t have anywhere to stay. The church let us use their showers and park in their lot for a few days. Before the week was out a young single man opened up his heart and home and invited us to stay with him until we could get our own place. And in time we moved into an apartment. Life didn’t get much easier but we were off the street. The words which the Lord spoke to me that day in the parking lot haunted me. There was a tugging on my heart to come back to God. But I didn’t know how. I was in such darkness. The chains of the evil one shackled my life. I felt like I had heavy chains holding me prisoner.
I gave my life to the Lord when I was seven years old. I had an encounter with God when I was just eight and multiple times afterward. I loved God. I knew I loved God but there was something preventing me from being able to pray. I had gone to prayer meetings all through high school and even as a young adult. I had a relationship with Jesus that had been deep and meaningful. But something kept telling me that God had given up on me because I turned my back on Him. The chains around my throat cut off my prayers. I found myself in my living room desperate, alone and crying. I wanted to come back to God but I didn’t know if He would accept me.
Every time I tried to pray I couldn’t even formulate a prayer in my mind, let alone actually get the words out of my mouth. The only prayer that came to my mind was the one we used to say before meals, “God is great, God is good, thank You for our food, Amen.” I could barely utter the words. It seemed like an eternity before the words came out. But I did it. Then I did it again. I was crying almost uncontrollably. And in the midst of heaving and crying I spoke those words over and over and over again. Every time I said that prayer chains on my life broke and fell to the ground. I could see heavy chains holding my life. They reminded me of Jacob Marley from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
The chains were broken and I was free. I don’t recall ever crying as hard and as long as I did that day. I cried tears of desperation followed by tears of relief followed by tears of joy. Some how, some way, God broke the hold on my life. He set me free and I haven’t been the same since. That day set a new course for my life. I was restored to God. I was confident of God’s love for me. I also knew I never ever wanted to go through something like that ever again. I asked God to make me able to never turn away from Him again. He didn’t promise me that. But He did promise that if I followed Him He would lead me and guide me all the days of my life.
My husband thought he married a party girl. He didn’t. He soon began to discover that something had changed. I was afraid to tell him. I didn’t know what to say. I spent my days in prayer and seeking God. And then one day my husband came home and told me we were moving. He had gotten us a mobile home and we were moving to Rosenberg, which was about 22 miles southwest of Houston. In August of 1982 I moved into that mobile home in Rosenberg, Texas. It had been months since my return to the Lord. I was hungry for fellowship and the people of God. Once we got settled into our new home I picked up the phone book and looked for a church.
I didn’t know that the church I picked had only opened their doors in July of that year. All I knew was Church of Living Waters sounded as close to my Charismatic experience. I was pregnant with our first son and was temporarily caring for my two young nieces. So the girls and I went waddling off to church. Just stepping over the threshold caused tears to begin to stream down my face. I knew that presence. I felt like I was home. And until my husband whisked us away the following February I was there every Sunday.
Shortly after I started attending I was approached by the pastor’s wife Betty Jo Frank. She invited me to the woman’s bible study and prayer meeting that me during the week. I was so hungry for God I jumped at the chance. My life seemed like it was in a blender. My husband’s alcoholic behavior had gotten him locked up a few times. My life seemed like it was spinning out of control at times. But God was faithful. He was with me. I had peace as long as I stayed close to Jesus.
Then one day, at the ladies Bible study we had a guest speaker. She was sharing on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. There were about a dozen or more of us. At the end of the session she prayed for each one of us. One by one the ladies all fell under the power of God. Being nearly nine months pregnant at the time I didn’t want to hit the floor. God in His grace left me standing. But the power that hit me might as well as knocked me off my feet. Never in my life had I ever experienced God’s power like that before.
It was like having a stick of dynamite go off in my innards. I don’t think anyone went out of there that day without having received the Holy Spirit. And it wasn’t just speaking in tongues. I was speaking in tongues but that was just an outward flow. Inside there was a gusher. It was like a someone turned on the faucet and I couldn’t shut it off, not that I wanted to. It was wonderful. It was incredible. It was like getting a bath on the inside. It was more powerful than when I got saved. It was more impacting than the day God spoke to me as a child. It was life altering. It didn’t just set me on a course, it changed my life entirely.
The Spirit of the Lord was not only flowing through me, He was speaking to me in a way I hadn’t experienced before. I can only describe it as unbroken fellowship. It was a constant continual unbroken exchange. It was like being hooked up to a closed electric circuit without a switch. The Spirit just flowed. I couldn’t explain it. I couldn’t describe it. Because of this flow I developed a hunger for the Word of God and prayer. It compelled me. I spent every moment I could steal away just to be with God.
I loved worship. I got lost in the presence of the Lord. He encompassed me. He enveloped me. He comforted me. He led me. He guided me and deep down I knew that He would never leave me or forsake me. He was there permanently.
We were only in Rosenberg, Texas from August 82 through February 83 when we returned to Chicago. In six months the Lord had done a powerful and amazing work in my life. I didn’t determine the steps that brought me to that place at that time. I didn’t even have a say in how I got there or when I left. But I am forever altered because God directed my steps. (Proverbs 16:9) Unbeknownst to me God was directing my steps. Behind the scenes He was enacting His plan. He brought me to Texas. He brought me to that parking lot in Houston. He brought me to Rosenberg and He brought me home again.
If for no other reason than to bring me back to Him I had to go to Texas. He led me, despite my being unaware. The orchestration of the events that led a Chicago girl to one particular church in a remote south-east Texas town was no small feat. But God got me there.
My life hasn’t been a bed of roses. It’s been more thorns than flowers. God doesn’t promise us a rose garden. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. He promises to be with us. And He promises the gift of eternal life to all who believe in Him.
He loves us. He loves us so much that He will go ahead of us and build a church that isn’t there yet just to make sure it’s in place at just the right time. I know God’s plan for that one church is much bigger than just me. But God is so personal that He makes sure that all things work together for our good. And it was for my good that a new spirit filled church opened up in Rosenberg, Texas just one month before I got there.
Thank you Jesus for your faithfulness. Thank you Father for your everlasting love. Thank you Holy Spirit for leading me and guiding me in the way that I should go. Thank you God for being there before I got there! Amen