One hot summer night, about 35 years ago, I found myself sitting on a log beside a swamp filled with countless croaking frogs. Looking up, I saw many beautiful stars shining so brightly, it took my breath away. All I could say was, “God, I know you’re there. Please help me to know you.”
That’s not much of a prayer, but it was all that was needed. God heard and answered in an amazing way.
I grew up in a family that went to church and believed in God. But starting in my teen-age years, it became difficult to believe just because I was supposed to believe. I had so many questions about God and it was hard to find people with answers. So I pretty much turned away from Him and went looking elsewhere for the answers to life’s questions. That search was a dead-end.
Then one summer, between semesters at school, I got a job working at a social services camp. The camp director led us in prayers before and after each meal, at each end-of-the-week campfire, and even at staff meetings. Since I had never been to a camp before, I thought all camps were like this. The prayers alone wouldn’t have meant so much to me if it wasn’t for the way the director and his family and some others at the camp seemed to believe that God heard our prayers, really cared, and would be faithful to answer. And because they lived like they really believed that, the way they lived really stood out. They truly cared about each and every child that came to the camp. And they cared about the single moms that came to the camp with their kids. And they cared about all the rest of us, as well.
What I saw in their lives stirred my heart and those stirrings got me up out of my bunkhouse in the middle of the night while everyone else slept and led me to that log beside the noisy swamp. Of course, God didn’t answer me just then with a booming voice from heaven. But just a few weeks later, He did answer.
Fall semester began and I returned to school. In one of my classes, there was a young woman who had the most beautiful smile. She was so very kind and thoughtful. She stood out from all the others so much that I couldn’t keep from asking her, “Jocelyn, what makes you the way you are?” She looked up at me and that lovely smile appeared as she answered, “Oh, Laurie, if there is anything good in me, it is all because of Jesus! He is my Lord and lives in my heart.”
Those words made my heart sink. Oh, no, I thought, Jocelyn is a Jesus Freak! Even with a church background, I considered people who talked about Jesus as if He was alive and lived with them to be “Jesus Freaks” because I only heard about them in comics and comedy shows and sometimes, in the news. I suddenly felt stiff and ill at ease.
That was when Jocelyn smiled at me and said, “Laurie, if you’d like, I’d love to share Jesus with you.” A strange thing happened then – part of me shouted inside, “No!!!” And then the other part of me looked at that kindly face and said, “Yes, Jocelyn, I’d like that.” Even after the words came out of my mouth, I couldn’t believe I said them. But I also knew that somehow those words were bigger than me and I had to stand by them.
In the weeks to come, Jocelyn “shared Jesus” with me as we met together to read the Gospel of John from the Bible. The first one or two times, I worried what others would think of me if they saw me praying or reading the Bible with Jocelyn. But I didn’t worry too long because the truth of God’s Word – who Jesus is and why He died on that cross – quickly became clear. He died for me. He who was without sin took on my sins and the sins of the world and carried them to death on that cross. He was buried and rose again to new life. And because He lives, I live, too! Now I have a new life in Christ – forgiven and made new!
God was faithful to answer my “swamp prayer.” Using the events and circumstances in my life to draw me to Him, God then placed Jocelyn in my path to share Jesus with me. In John 14:6-7, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” What an amazing answer to my prayer! My life has never been the same. Thank you, God, for hearing my prayer and answering with Jesus!