On the way to legal hearing about a car accident I had been involved in while drinking, I became terrified. My once-fun lifestyle of drinking, smoking, and partying had now turned into a horrible legal ordeal.

I was emotionally broken, physically addicted, spiritually bankrupt, and mentally losing sight of reality. It was as if-all at once-I woke up to who I had become; how I existed on substances, rather than food; how poorly I treated people; how deceitful I was; and how far my body and appearance had declined. I could no longer deny the sad and shameful reality of my life, nor did I want to live any longer.

Before I walked into the office building, I determined that everything about my life must change. I just had no idea where to begin.

Prior to the deposition, my lawyer firmly grabbed my elbow and whispered, "Rebecca, if you lie on the stand, you will be crucified." Can you remember an event, a song, or a sentence that stopped you dead in your tracks, re-routed your life, and sent you reeling in another direction? That sentence got my attention. More specifically, that was the sentence when God got my attention.

Though I felt fearful and hopeless, something deep in my soul was telling me that I needed something or someone to take control of my life. If I had been running from God, it was in that office that I realized I was now desperately searching for a way to connect with Him.

The lawyer's words echoed in my mind. I began to think that God was trying to reach out to me. Through the visual picture of crucifixion, I was reminded of the stories I had heard in church as a child. As a family, we had attended church every week until I left home at seventeen. But not since I was a little girl did I think about being in a relationship with Him. That day I was aware that I wanted to run into His arms and be held by Him like a lost child returning safely home.

My mind raced with thoughts of how I might do that. I sensed that God truly loved me, wanted to help me, and was willing to forgive me. Oddly, I didn't feel unworthy or afraid or ashamed. I was beginning to feel hopeful.

It was the thought of a living, loving God that compelled me to drive to a church after the hearing. I pulled into the parking lot of a church I had previously attended on a religious holiday and ran frantically down a flight of stairs. I desperately knew that every area of my life needed to change. I could no longer cover up, lie about, deny, or rationalize my state of being.

I didn't find the pastor. Rather, it was the janitor of the church who found me crying in the basement hallway. His name was Ralph, he said, and as he listened to me pour out the sordid details of my broken life, he told me that he, too, had been addicted. He could tell that I was about to self-destruct from the torment of anxiety attacks, suicidal thoughts, and addiction withdrawal.

This stranger, whose last name I didn't even know, led me to God.

Through a simple but incredibly powerful prayer with the janitor of the church, I found God waiting for me. By pouring out the sordid details of my past and present, I received a spiritual cleansing, like a shower of healing and renewal for my mind, body, and spirit. That encounter on August 26th, 1976, was only the beginning of my journey to change.

I decided to move back home to Cleveland and start over. All I knew about Ralph was that he planned to move to Israel and become a missionary. I lost track of him, but over the years, I often thought about him and wondered what he was doing. Years later, when I became a motivational coach and writer, I mentioned him in my books, told his story all over the country, and talked about him on TV and radio. When people asked me whatever happened to him, I always said I had no idea.

And then, in June of 2001, I was on Focus on the Family's radio program. The interviewer found my story about Ralph fascinating and asked if I'd stayed in touch with him. I said no, and that all I knew was that Ralph planned to go to Israel but I had no idea what ever became of him.

Right after the show, a call came into my office. The woman on the other end of the line said to my assistant, "I think my brother is the Ralph that Becky knew back in 1976." She offered her brother's email address and after all of those years, we made contact.

Twenty-five years to the very day that my encounter with Ralph and God changed everything, my phone rang. it was Ralph. He was doing exactly what he said he would do-living and working in Israel. He said the one thing he remembered about me was how much the Father loved me.

As we talked, I was overwhelmed with gratitude to this man who had once looked past my messy life and courageously offered me help and hope. In so many ways, he was and is responsible for where I am today. I am married to a wonderful man, the mother of a great son, an author and speaker, and most importantly, a woman who is sober, healthy, and still as passionate about God today as I was the day Ralph prayed with me.

Ultimately, the greatest thing I could say to Ralph after 25 years was that I had "kept the change"! I think it surprised him a little to hear what I was doing-encouraging others to change their lives. He is directly responsible for all the people I've reached, because without him, I don't know where I'd be today.

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad