Thursday, July 18, 2013
I had just moved from Daytona Beach to Brandon a fews days prior. Starting over in a new city, I went to the church my parents were attending that first Sunday. I figured it would be a good place to meet "good" people. As a 19 year old guest, I was taken to the college and young singles class. Afterwards, I was invited to join the group the very next weekend at a beach retreat. I figured I had nothing to lose, so I went! There on North Reddington Beach, I made some new, life-long friends. I believe they realized pretty quickly that I was not a believer, but they took me in and made me feel so welcomed and encouraged. I also believe some started praying for me immediately. I noticed something different about these new friends. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I wanted it!
We returned from the beach and that Monday night would be the start of a revival in Plant City. Some of my new friends were going and invited me. My social calendar was clear at this point, so even though I didn't really know what a revival was, I went. I sat with Valerie, a girl I'd met at the beach. We listened to a sermon from the bleachers on a football field that summer night.
The pastor was preaching on the wheat and the tears. He explained the difference between the two: the wheat contained seed, and the tears did not. He likened that to believers and non-believers. I quickly understood enough to know that the "seed" I recognized in these friends was Jesus, and I was the one without. I wanted Jesus too! The pastor closed in prayer, asking God not to let anyone leave that needed Him. I felt my knees turn to Jell-O and conviction overcame me. Valerie noticed. She took me by the hand and walked with me to the football field. We knelt at a brown metal folding chair and I asked Jesus into my life. That was twenty-five years ago today.
In those twenty-five years my God has given me a firm place to stand, revealed my brokenness, rescued me, healed me, restored me, and set me free. I am forever grateful for my friend Valerie's obedience to the gospel, and for reaching out to befriend me - the new girl - all those years ago. As God would have it, we are still in touch. We attend the same church (a different one from where we met) and are in the same Bible Fellowship class. Her oldest daughter now spends time in Bible study at my house as part of our church's college ministry. How special that is! So tonight Lord-willing, my friend Valerie and I will celebrate and eat cake, and reflect on God's goodness over the years. For her friendship and the gift of salvation, I am forever grateful.