Occasionally, I have dropped information about things He’s done in my life, but in that area, I haven’t talked of how God has pursued me.
Allow me to meander to the point.
When one enters the military, at the beginning of Basic Training, the recruit is asked whether he/she wants a religion to be engraved on his/her dog-tags. I was 19 when joined the USAF in 1981 and, reflexively, I had 'Christian' engraved on mine.
Not long afterward, I looked at the tags. It seemed silly. At best, I acknowledged God’s existence and that was all. I spent my young adult years ignoring Him, which seemed only fair. He had been ignoring me since I was born – or so I thought at the time. Neither of my two sets of parents were Christians when I was growing up. (They are now.)
A lot of people remember the exact date that they became Christians. I don’t, not even the year. However, I’d read parts of the Bible and never dabbled in atheism.
Then, 1995-ish, I read the Bible cover-to-cover for the first time and “decided” that I believed what it said, and that Jesus the Christ was my Lord and Savior. But, as I look back at that point, it was the end of one journey and the beginning of another.
My conversion happened when I was in my mid-30s. There was no big incident that precipitated it, nor was there any miracle that followed it, at least not one that I could discern. I didn't radically change my behavior. I didn’t become a “super Christian,” or start trying to convert everyone in sight. But if anyone asked what I believed, I told them.
I used to watch Christian TV programming and hear people get up and tell about these huge, awesome miracles that God did for them. But, even after I became a Christian, I was skeptical because God never did anything like that for me …
For many years following my conversion, I thought like this. I don't anymore because ... well, you'll see.
I’ve told of my unusual origin and upbringing before, but I will again – with some additional information.
I’m the child of a Kenyan father and an American mother. I was born in Chicago and raised in Los Angeles. My parents divorced when I was a baby and my father returned to his home country. My great-aunt and great-uncle, Alma and John Simpkins, raised me from ages one to nine in Los Angeles. When I was nine, I went to live with Mom and her new husband, also known as my American dad when I’m talking about these matters. He’s just Dad, actually. (Love you, old man.)
What I haven’t mentioned is that Dad is Mom’s third husband. Mom was married to my biological father for about a year, and she and Dad have been married for close to 50 years. But, in the interim, she was married to an Ethiopian immigrant named Tamaru Feyessa – at the time, a grad student.
Relax. There are no ugly stories I have about Tam, at least nothing that I experienced personally. The acknowledgement of his existence, however, is essential to the telling of this story.
When Mom was married to Tam, I remained in the custody of Aunt Alma and Uncle John and would visit Mom and Tam on the weekends. One weekend, not long after Mom had picked me up and brought me to their home, she received a phone call from her employer, Southern California Pacific Bell, the old, local incarnation of AT&T. She was a telephone operator, one of the very few black ones at that time. (If you ever hear Mom speak, you’ll know why. Perfect diction; my sisters and I admit to mimicking it when we want to impress.)
Pac Bell had an emergency and needed her to come to work and that’s what she did. Tam and I remained.
Tam was never mean or anything like that; he simply tolerated me as if I were a temporarily visiting guest, one which would be gone soon. I sensed it back then, though I could put it into words only later, of course. Long after they divorced, Mom told me that he urged her to allow Auntie and Uncle to legally adopt me – something she never did.
After Mom left for work, Tam looked at me. “I’m going out," he said. "Stay here and don’t open the door.” And he was gone. I don’t remember if he locked the door with a key or did so from the inside, but it was one or the other.
I was three or four years old, but no more than that.
I’ve mentioned before that, as a child, I had a terrible fear of never seeing my various parental entities ever again, and my upbringing makes plain why this was so. (I could do a whole gazillion posts on how this fear has wreaked havoc on my adult love life.)
When Tam walked out, that fear kicked into overdrive. I remember feeling lost, alone, and afraid, as if I were the only person left on earth.
I looked around the ground-floor bungalow apartment. In it, there was nothing of me. I don’t recall toys or a bedroom. It was so different from home -- the warm, happy place where my aunt and uncle spoiled their only child.
Nothing to do but wait.
Then, for some reason, I decided to look out the front window. It had horizontal Venetian blinds and they were closed. Instead of opening them, I lifted one of slats and took a peek.
Directly in front, there were two small plots of grass separated by a concrete pathway leading to the front door, and, behind that, a parking lot, all of which were in clear view. And when I looked out, I saw …
… my Uncle John closing the door of his truck and walking along the pathway towards the apartment!
Uncle John worked for the City of LA, and, therefore, routinely worked on Saturdays. This particular Saturday was no different, but, for some reason, he decided to drop by Mom and Tam’s place. I never found out why he did it.
Tam’s warning about opening the door was immediately null and void. I opened it, ran down the few steps, ran up to Uncle, and jumped up into his arms.
I want to go home I said.
And that’s where he took me.
This story’s purpose isn’t merely to make you say “wow,” or to induce tears – in spite of the fact that I always leak a little when I tell it. It isn’t told to make you mad at anyone or admire anyone. I tell it for one specific reason.
Up until a few years ago, I had totally forgotten about it!
And do you know who reminded me of the story? Do you know who reminded me that God has been doing me solids even when I was too young to see it and even after I got older and was too blinded by fear to see it, even after I became a Christian?
Decades after Tam was out of our lives and years after Aunt Alma and Uncle John had gone home to their rewards, Mom reminded me of how much God loves me and has always been looking out for me. She did this even at the expense of her own image in my eyes.
When she reminded me, the memory came back like a flood and so did memories of the many, many other times that God intervened in my life. I’m sure there are more I have yet to remember.
And now that my eyes are opened, I see His miracles all the time, almost daily. Some of them are pretty overt. Right, Joy McCann?
I have never been in the vicinity of Miss Goody Two Shoes; I have always been a selfish person, particularly so before converting to Christ. Recently, after finding out about the death of someone who I loved deeply – and who I hurt just as deeply – I was reminded of this.
God has, of course, always known who and what I am; He kept after me anyway and He began before I was even old enough to pay attention. He kept drawing me to Him. I don't know why, but I am so grateful.
Now, I’m ready to do my meager part in closing the distance.
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