Tell me what you know of Ashley Smith.
Ashley Smith was in the Celebrate Recovery (a nationwide Saddleback church recovery program) program before anything happened [with Brian Nichols]. She had just started last spring, and was still an addict. I knew she was still an addict when I heard about the hostage situation, and heard that at 2 a.m. this woman had gone out for cigarettes. And I thought there is probably only one reason that she went out for cigarettes and that was that she was wired. I mean, I'm a pastor, I know that kind of stuff. So I'm going, OK, what is she on?
A lot of attention is on Ashley and the revelation that there were drugs involved in helping her out of the situation with Brian Nichols. Does that undermine the power of her testimony?
Absolutely not. In fact, this makes the story even more powerful because it is going to give so many addicts hope. During the hostage crisis Ashley made the decision to trust God to break her long-term addiction. She'd been addicted to crystal meth for a long time. And she was a believer. But during all of those years she struggled with relapses. A lot of people don't have the accountability of a Celebrate Recovery-type group. You have got to get better in community. You cannot break an addiction on your own. It takes other people, as a general rule.
In desperation and in trying to save her life Ashley offers Brian crystal meth. He asks her if she's got marijuana. If you are trying to save your life, what are you thinking? You're an addict, she'd taken [drugs] no more than 36 hours earlier, was a believer, was still breaking and relapsing in recovery and she offers him the crystal meth, immediately regrets the decision, and at that exact moment God speaks to Ashley. And when Brian suggested that Ashley take drugs with him, for the first time, God gives her the power to say no. And then she explained why Brian shouldn't take drugs either.
In this moment there wasn't only Brian's redemption, there was Ashley's. That is the story. She helped Brian find his purpose in life, but at the moment she offered drugs to him and then later regretted it, God said, "You said 'no' to a negative [taking drugs again], but you might as well say something positive for a change."
And that is when she said, "I'm going to go get 'The Purpose Driven Life' and my Bible and read it to you." So it was that power to say no that was the turning point in her life, too. And she has been clean since that moment. She has not had a drug since 36 hours before Brian Nichols appeared. She turned it down that day. It was the first time she said no. The full story is a testimony to God's forgiveness, grace, and purpose for her life.
There are four lessons. The first one is that it is never too late to start over. The bottom line is that your past is past. She'd made a stupid decision in offering him drugs, but not one split second later she was saying to herself, "That was dumb," and she says, "I'm not going to take them--in fact, you shouldn't take them, because I know I'm an addict and it makes me crazy." And so it is never too late to start over.
The second truth is that God's purpose for your life is greater than any problem you are going through. She explains that to Brian and he gets it and that's the transforming thing.
A third thing that a lot of people don't get is that the message of the Bible really does transform people. You see, my book doesn't have any magic in it. But what it does have in it is about 1,500 quoted Bible verses in a modern translation of simple language that people can understand. So I'm not surprised at all that the book is changing lives because I was just quoting from the Bible. And the fact that God has the power to change people over any addiction is illustrated in both Brian's and Ashley's life. So it makes the story all the more powerful.
When I hear reporters going, "Oh yeah, he turned himself in because he got high." I go, "Right, that is laughable." As a pastor, I have never seen anyone turn themselves in to the police because they were stoned. Not once. That is so laughable that they are now saying, "Well it wasn't her talk about God and it wasn't about him finding purpose, it was about the fact that she gave him drugs." Not a chance. There isn't a person in history who has turned himself in to the police because he took drugs.
An interesting thing: "The Purpose Driven Life" has been involved in the three most notorious murder cases of the last year--all three of them. Amber Frye gave it to Scott Peterson. And actually it was on the back seat of his car when he was arrested. She had written in it, "I hope you'll read this book so you'll get your life straightened out." Obviously he didn't read it. Then Ashley read it to Brian. And then down in Aruba, Dave Holloway, dad of Natalie Holloway, gave a copy to one of the suspects and said "You need to read this."
Now why is a book showing up in the three biggest murder cases of the year? Because it is a book of hope. And people need hope. That is why, as I told you, it is the bestselling book for three years in a row because it is a book about hope and people need hope.