Many thanks to those of you who met my birthday deadline for giving feedback on the first half of my new book Untwisting Scriptures that were used to tie you up, gag you, and tangle your mind: Book 3 Your Words, Your Emotions.
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“You have to get up and eat something. You can’t go on like this.”
That was my mother. I was 23 and trying to accomplish a several-day-long spiritual fast, so I could discern the Lord’s will about my future, specifically graduate school. But instead, I had made myself completely sick with a never-ending pounding headache, and I couldn’t even think enough to ask God about anything at all.
So I got up, had some graham crackers and milk, and felt like a complete failure. I wanted so much to have faith like George Mueller.
Somehow, even though my fasting had been a failure, I eventually came to the conclusion that going to grad school would be the best plan.
So, 40 years ago today, on my 24th birthday, September 5th, 1981, I drove from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Bob Jones University in South Carolina.
As I turned the key in my Volvo early that morning and waved good-bye to my parents and sisters, the song that randomly played on the radio was “Going to Carolina in My Mind.” I didn’t think of it as a sign from God, really, but I thought it was pretty cool.
I wanted so much to see God as real in my very own life. I wanted to follow God in faith the way George Mueller did. It may sound foolish today, but I went there without enough money to pay for more than a month of schooling, determining to seek Him to provide. In true George Mueller fashion, I told no one, not even in the prayer group prayer request time. Only the Lord. I didn’t fast about it again, but I talked to the Lord about it a lot. And tried hard not to worry.
I didn’t know they needed writers for the textbooks they were writing at Bob Jones University Press. I didn’t even know what Bob Jones University Press was. But with my school application I had included a resume that mentioned a little bit of writing I had done for an educational publisher (because a friend had gone to work for them, and she had sent some freelance work my way).
But that was what eventually led to my being hired there as a graduate assistant, with all my tuition, fees, and room and board, all covered.
My prayer had been directly answered. Not just “kind of” answered or indirectly answered, but my exact prayer was exactly answered. It was the greatest work of God I had seen in my own life personally up until that time.
There was more, too. As my BJU Press supervisor Jan Joss told me, working there gave me the equivalent of a master’s degree in publishing. And my first solo book was published, With Daring Faith: A Biography of Amy Carmichael, the first of 19 books and counting. (I also gained a husband out of the deal–we met there at BJU Press.)
Perhaps largely because I came in as a grad assistant and not as an undergrad student, my good experiences at BJU were many, and my bad experiences were few. (One of those memorable bad experiences would be when the men who were writing the Bible curriculum laughed at me because I, as a lowly elementary author, was sent to them to ask them to check what I had written for accuracy, and they made it clear that was beneath them.)
I knew there were some silly rules at BJU (no walking on the grass, women have to wear stockings, etc). But there were also good people, and the school provided a solid education in certain areas.
However, 30 years later, when abuse victims and survivors began speaking to me about their experiences there, I didn’t say, “Well, *I* didn’t have a bad experience there, so you must not be telling the truth.” I listened, and I believed them. Eventually I began speaking out, explaining among other things why “loyalty” was not a Christian virtue. I discovered in 2014 that many Christians didn’t think logically and many Christians didn’t know the Bible. And that is all part of the path that has led me to where I am now.
But today I’m pondering the 40-years-ago experience. George Mueller, though he may have had his blind spots, is still one of my heroes as an example of prayer, of seeing a desperate need (orphans on the streets of English cities), wanting to provide for that need, and wanting to see God glorified through that provision.
My boss at the Press, Jan Joss, patiently taught me so that I could become a better writer (marking up a children’s story with several different colored pencils to tell me all the ways that it failed to meet her expectations as a worthy story to be published–for which I’m eternally grateful).
And the Lord lovingly opened the way. I had no idea what the path would be when He set me on it in those days, but I wanted very much to walk it with Him. I’m thankful He knew, and I’m thankful He leads and guides with love. In spite of the evil that I truly had no comprehension of in those days, I’m so grateful to say that I still see Him work in mighty ways.
And I still worship.