Beginning Monday, Aug. 12, I will be spending five days shut away in a cottage in order to hear the voice of God. Most of you reading this column are probably wondering what makes me think I'm actually going to hear God's voice. I mean has anyone ever really heard the audible voice of God, with the exception of Old Testament prophets?
Believe it or not, I have heard the audible voice of God. It happened hours before I surrendered my life to him in February 2003. I had spent an entire weekend with friends drinking and partying and was headed back home, when I heard these words, “If you continue going down this road, you're going to die.”
At first I thought I was losing it. I had never heard voices before and it scared me half to death. However, it didn't scare me enough to get me to stop. I continued to drive a ways until I heard the voice again. It repeated those horrific words to me again, “If you continue to drive down this road you're going to die.”
Not knowing what to do, I immediately pulled my car over to the side of the road. I sat on the side of Interstate 20 between Columbia, S.C., and Newberry, S.C., trying to understand what was happening to me.
To give you a better understanding, I think I should rewind to the Friday before that unforgettable Monday morning. Before driving to Sumter, S.C., to meet up with my friends, for what was destined to be a weekend I would never forget, I stopped at a local McDonald's to get a cup of coffee. I was an avid coffee drinker back then and refused to travel anywhere without it.
I walked into the restaurant not knowing that the Lord was setting me up. As I stood at the counter waiting for my fresh cup of java, a friend I had not seen in years approached me. She had just returned to our hometown after spending several years in Florida with an abusive boyfriend, who was also a drug addict. He had convinced her that life in another state would be better for them, but it turned out to be a near fatal experience for her.
As she shared her testimony and how the Lord had rescued her from the hands of an evil man, I was filled with such awe. She talked about how she had gotten addicted to drugs and her experience of getting an abortion, which her ex forced upon her. Then she told me about how her parents called a special prayer meeting at their church every Friday night just to pray for her. They had taken their daughter's situation before the church and asked if others would join them in prayer until she returned home.
Hearing her testify to the fact that her parents' prayers had been answered was absolutely amazing. She called them out of desperation in the middle of the night and they drove nine hours to bring their daughter home. It was during the return trip that she decided to give her heart to Jesus.
It was by far one of the most amazing testimonies I had ever heard. I could see the sincerity in her eyes and the love of Jesus was all over her face.
I stood there visiting with her for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, my coffee was ready and I realized I was running late for my weekend excursion.
I thanked Brooke for sharing her story with me. We exchanged phone numbers and promised to keep in touch.
Picking up my coffee from the counter, I started for the door when someone called my name. I turned to see one of my old coaches from high school, Tony Foster in the drive-thru with his wife. After getting their order, they pulled forward so that I could step outside to talk with them.
Brooke decided to go with me, because Pastor Tony was the associate pastor at the church she was attending.
As I approached his vehicle, he and his wife began questioning me about my life. I shared with them that I was teaching and coaching, that I was doing what I loved. They then proceeded to ask me about my church attendance. I was hesitant in my response, but informed them that I would attend church with my grandmother and friends on occasion.
They took the liberty of inviting me to their church. I politely declined, but silently I was thinking I wouldn't be caught dead in their church. Everybody in town knew what kind of church it was. It was one of those Bible-believing, spirit-filled churches. I had made it my life's mission to stay away from those kinds of churches.
After a brief conversation with the couple, I made my way to my vehicle. I reached for the door handle to hear Brooke yell these words out to me, “Mel, I know what you're going to spend your weekend doing. I know you're going to drink this entire weekend, but I'm going to pray that you lose the desire for alcohol.”
What kind of person does that? I quickly responded that it wouldn't be right for her to do that. Was I actually fearful that her prayers might work or was I just angry that she would say such a thing?
I quickly sat behind the wheel of my car and started it up. I wanted to get out of that McDonald's parking lot as fast as I could. I needed to put that entire experience behind me. I couldn't let a couple of Jesus freaks ruin my weekend, and I was determined they wouldn't.
Once I hit the highway, I cranked up the radio as loud as possible and tried to drown out any sound of my previous conversations. It was smooth-sailing from that point on, or so I thought.
After reaching my destination, one of Sumter's most beautiful golf courses, I was finally in party mode. It was there that I met up with my friends for the weekend. We had planned a weekend of golf, drinking, grilling out and more drinking.
Our golf outing rocked. I don't think I played very well, but I drank everyone under the table. We drank on the course, in the clubhouse and at a restaurant after leaving the golf club. We went home and rested for a few hours, only to prepare ourselves for a night of dancing and drinking. And to think that was only the beginning of the weekend.
Saturday morning everyone slept off the alcohol and washed off the stench from the night before. We wreaked of alcohol, and even though none of us smoked, we smelled of cigarettes.
I felt so dirty, but was prepared to do it all again if Saturday night called for it. However, that would be the night that things started to change.
My friend's parents were moving into a new home and asked us to help. They told us that if we were willing to help them move, they would buy each of us our favorite alcoholic beverage. I would have done anything for a case of Woodchuck, which was my drink of choice at that time.
We got them moved in and the party was ready to begin. They had decided to grill out and we were ready to get our drink on. I cracked open my first Woodchuck, brought the bottle to my lips and began to feel nauseous. I thought to myself how strange that was. It literally made me feel like I would vomit, and I hadn't even taken a sip of it yet. I tried again only to be met with the same sick feeling. Everyone began to question me and all I could say was that I didn't feel well.
Stepping outside for some fresh air and to regroup, I hurried my way to the couple's gazebo. I sat down on the bench and began giving myself a pep talk. Once the nausea passed and I experienced some relief, I returned to the party. Picking up my drink like nothing had happened, I turned the bottle up, only to be met with the same sick feeling.
At that point, I chose to go to one of the bedrooms and lay down. I had no clue what was happening to me, but I was determined to get to the bottom of this. Was it something I had eaten that made my stomach upset? Was I coming down with some kind of stomach bug? Then, it all started rushing back.
Had Brooke really prayed for me to lose my desire for alcohol? Is that what was happening to me? Whatever it was, it was making me go crazy. I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't think. But I had to play it cool in front of my friends. I didn't want them to think I was losing my mind, even though I felt like I was.
I made it through the weekend. It was difficult, but I made it. Every time I tried to drink an alcoholic beverage, it made me sick to my stomach. I explained it away by telling my friends that I must have some kind of 24-hour virus.
Before daylight the following Monday morning, I was on the road back to my hometown. It was at that point that the Lord began dealing with me about life. When he spoke those words about me dying if I continued to go down that road, I asked him what he meant. Were we talking a spiritual death or a physical death?
That is when I realized that he was referring to both. If I had died in a car accident that day, I would have died a physical death and a spiritual death. I would have spent an eternity separated from God. When that reality hit me, I began to break down and cry. To solidify his point, “I Can Only Imagine,” a song written by MercyMe came on the radio. The crazy thing about that was the fact that I wasn't even listening to a Christian radio station. The whole thing was so surreal, but a very heavy weight was lifted from my shoulders. I actually felt like I had been given a new chance at life, and I had... I had been reborn.
I immediately called Brooke to tell her about my experience. The neat thing is, she already knew why I was calling. She explained to me that when I left her at McDonald's that day, she called some of our mutual friends who were Christians to have a special prayer service for me. They met that Friday night at her church and prayed through the night in hopes that I would surrender my life to the Lord.
Once I arrived in town, I met with her and Pastor Tony at Grace Community Church. They took time to answer my questions and offered to disciple me. I eventually became a member of that Bible-believing, spirit-filled church.
Needless to say, the Lord got my attention that weekend. For the past 10 years I have tried to follow him wholeheartedly. Now I find myself needing to hear his audible voice again. I need his direction and guidance. I need him to show me what steps to take in order to be in the center of his will. That is why I'm looking forward to spending time with him in an undisclosed location next week. I hope to return to Waxahachie with clarity and the ability to say that I've heard his audible voice once again, but this time because I asked for it.
Melissa Cade is a journalist for Waxahachie Newspapers Inc. Follow her on Facebook.com/MelissaCadeWDL. Contact her at 469-517-1450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.