With my heart pounding, I held the phone receiver to my ear rehearsing what I might say. Finally a woman’s quiet voice answered. “Hello Mrs. M.? This is Tina, Ronna’s friend from second grade.
“I want to thank you for caring enough to invest in my life when I was 8 years old.”
Forty-six years ago my parents divorced when I was four. Both struggled with alcohol and relationships. My childhood was spent living some with dad and some with mom.
When I was eight years old I lived in Ohio. I experienced my first real friendship with Ronna. We both liked playing with baby dolls, jumping rope and playing jacks.
On Wednesdays Ronna invited me to her house after school.
We’d play with her toys laughing and making up stories. When dinner time came, we sat around the table with her mom and dad holding hands while her dad bowed his head to pray.
My family didn’t go to church, let alone hold hands to pray at the dinner table, so this was new for me and I liked it. I loved being at Ronna’s house where there was such peace and joy. Surely this is what the books I read meant by “happily ever after.”
After dinner, we’d load up in the car and head to the church. Church made me feel warm and safe. The people seemed happy and friendly, smiling and shaking hands or hugging one another. Then the music would start and the man up front would bow his head like Ronna’s dad and pray. He would open a big black book sitting on the podium and begin to read.
I didn’t really understand, but everyone seemed to be intently listening. After a while, he closed the book and said, “If you’ve never asked Jesus to forgive your sins and would like to invite Him into your heart, come let us pray with you.”
The woman at the piano played a beautiful song that made me feel happy, yet warm tears rolled down my cheeks as I sang;
Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee
O Lamb of God, I come! I come
Ronna’s Dad was standing at the front of the church with the man from the stage. I leaned over and whispered in Ronna’s ear, I want Jesus in my heart. I jumped to my feet and practically ran to Mr. M.
We sat down in a pew and he opened his big black book to read from John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Do you believe Jesus is real, Tina, and that he died for your sins? I answered yes and then we bowed our heads while Mr. M. said a prayer, which I repeated after him, and for the first time I talked to God.
Praying felt like the most right thing I’d ever done.
A smile spread across my face so big it made my cheeks hurt. Mr. M. gave me my own big black book — a Bible — told me to read it every day, and to talk to God like we just did about everything and anything. He told me that I am part of the “family” now, and many others came smiling and offering hugs.
Well, after that day, life became more turbulent. I moved to so many different states and schools, I lost count. The alcoholism and relationship struggles continued and the abuse increased.
As a teen I made destructive choices: underage drinking, drugs, promiscuity. I felt so much pain deep inside. Alone and unloved, I often times wanted life to end.
Yet somehow I kept finding the strength to go on, searching for the “good” in life, for my purpose, holding onto just a small amount of hope that things would get better.
I shared in my blog, Follow Me about a difficult time in my life that lead me back to church.
I remember walking through the church doors thinking it felt really good to be there. The music was beautiful and the once familiar warm and happy feeling welled up in my heart.
At the end of the service, the Chaplain began to talk about having a relationship with Jesus. All this seemed so familiar to me, and so right. Peace filled my heart and I knew I was meant to be there….I had come home to my Father’s House.
One day in a Bible study, we began to discuss if it’s possible for a child to make a true profession of faith. Instantly I remembered Mr.& Mrs. M and my eight year old experience.
Jesus called an 8 year old little girl to come, and she responded in childlike faith. He met me just as I was and took up residence in my heart upon my invitation.
Though I did not continue to read the bible Mr. M. gave me or attend church I look back over my life and clearly see the hand of God in each of my dark times.
He preserved me because He loves me. He is faithful and promised to never leave me and He wooed me back to Himself.
I wondered if Mr. & Mrs. M intentionally allowed Ronna to invite me home on Wednesdays hoping to introduce me to Jesus? Did they know it really mattered, how my life was changed by their willingness to open their home and hearts to me? Did they know that
The lives of my children, grandchildren and generations to come will never be the same?
I wanted them to know! I believe God prompted me to pick up the phone and call. During that phone call to Mr. & Mrs. M. kept repeating, “Oh My goodness, Oh My goodness! We never dreamed we’d hear someone say “thank you” on this side of heaven.”
Yes, my dear friends what we do in life does really matter. We can be the instrument that God uses to bring hope to another — even a child — hope that will sustain in the darkest of storms.
Who is that person that cared enough about you to share the love of Jesus? Why don’t you thank God and let them know today!
This blog is dedicated to the loving memory of Mr. & Mrs M who now reside in their Heavenly Home.