I was 16 years old and a new convert to the Christian faith. I had started attending a conservative Baptist church. Those who know anything about the conservative Baptist tradition know just how little emotion is shown in their churches. They don’t believe in the “heavenly gifts”; things like speaking in tongues, prophecy, etc. When this event occurred I had only been a Christian for a few months, which meant I had not yet been indoctrinated with the clichés of the Church.
I was playing basketball in my backyard. My mother was not home because she was still at work. It was about 3:00 in the afternoon. As I was shooting the basketball I heard a quiet voice say my name. It sounded a lot like my mother calling me. But, she was not home. So it was a strange moment that I quickly ignored.
I soon heard the calling again. This time it was a little louder and sounded a little more frustrated. Instead of ignoring it, I looked around the outside of the house and through the picket fence behind me to see if someone was trying to play a joke on me. But, I was met with silence everywhere I looked.
What in the world could be going on. I must be hearing things. So, I started shooting around again. Within a couple of minutes, I heard my name again. This time I was pissed. I walked out into the middle of the road and yelled “what do you want?” I assumed I would see the person who was playing this joke on me. But all I heard was the echo of my voice.
At this point, I did not think about God at all. I just assumed I was hearing things or someone was playing a joke on me. I slowly began to dribble the ball while looking around waiting to see someone jump out from behind a house or a car that was parked on the road.
Suddenly, an elderly woman sitting on the porch next door said to me “I used to play basketball”. She was probably in her late 60’s and she was sitting on a rocking chair. She was not the owner of the house. I had never seen her before. Of course, I was curious about her so I slowly began walking towards her and began inquiring into her basketball career. She said she used to play when she was in school. She commented that the game had changed so much since she played, but she still enjoyed watching it. By this time, I had made my way to her bottom step and was listening intently to her story.
We were making small talk when I inquired into who she was. She told me her name (which I don’t remember), and she had informed me that she was the neighbor’s mother and she was staying with them because she was dying of cancer. A tear slowly rolled down her cheek. I sensed that she had not yet come to terms with her disease and the fact that she was dying. So, I sat near her and just talked with her.
I inquired into her faith and that is when she told me that she did not have any faith in God. She wasn’t opposed, she just had never found it necessary. She had never read the Bible or gone to church. So, I asked her if she would like a Bible and she nodded yes. So, I ran home and grabbed an extra Bible I had and gave it to her. It was then that I opened it and began to encourage her in the love and grace of God. At one point she began to cry a little. I showed her how the scriptures point to Jesus who is the hope for all of the nations. That through belief in Jesus she could be restored. That she could spend the rest of her time on earth in hopeful expectation that she would spend eternity in the strong grasp of God’s love.
After about an hour of speaking with her, I returned home. The next day I awoke to the sound of commotion outside. I went out there to see an ambulance next door. I was told that a woman had passed away. I slowly walked back to my house thinking about my last interaction with her. It was then that I reflected on the entire experience including the voice that I heard calling my name. The whole experience impacted me so much that I continue to think about it some 25 years later.
Over the years, I have tried to rationalize my experience. But, there is no satisfactory explanation that I can come up with that rationally explains the entire sequence of events. At least that day, everything happened for a reason. That day, a dying woman got to see Jesus before she died. We don’t understand the mystery of God, how he does or does not work in our world. Some people spend a lifetime trying to figure out such things. We have not been called to a life of figuring things out, but a life of obedience. We have been called to love others no matter who they are.
I have never had an experience like that before or after. I don’t know if God speaks to people in a way that they can understand. What I do know is that he did speak to me on that day, and I will never forget it.