by Dawn Smiling
I was so young. I remember like yesterday. I knew him since I was a baby. At least it feels that way. Truly it did. My mommy took me to church and I sat in the front pew. My twin sister and I were only eight or nine years old, and we were singing the praises of God. We were devotional leaders. One day a visiting Pastor came and asked me to come to the front. I was around 10 years old, but I remember like yesterday. He said I would see my friends saved, and I would see my family saved. I could not understand what he was talking about. But he put his hand on my head and prayed for me.
I grew from nine years old as a devotional leader, to a member of the Mount Calvary Choir in New York City. I was 16, in my robe and so excited. I was singing a song and all of a sudden a feeling came over me. The feeling went right through me from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. I began to shout in that small Pentecostal church. Have you ever been in an African American church when the Holy Spirit comes in? We tend to get a little physical! I began to lift my hands and shout like David. I danced all over the choir stand until I could not dance anymore. I was in love. For the first time in my life, I felt God touch me, and life has never been the same.
While I was elated in my new experience, Satan was not. I was the first member of my household to be saved. Mommy and daddy were not saved. My sisters were not saved. There was now a light in the house, and I had to learn how to walk without the benefit of living in a Christian household. It was difficult. It was rewarding and lonely at the same time. At church I felt the peace of God, and I excelled, but at home there was confusion that I really could not explain. My dad had a drinking problem, and in high school there were peer pressures that I could not handle. God really had a time with me.
I found myself caving into the pressures, and I wandered away from God. How could I leave my first love? Real love is not always understood. When the test came, it was hard to stand. Pastor Craig spoke about our DNA this past January. I simply did not know who I was. I didn’t have the strength to go on. My friends were dating. My sisters were partying. I tried to serve God and keep up with society. I remember coming home from a party and I had a couple of drinks. My stomach was so sick. I came home and crawled into my mother’s bed. She looked at me at said, “Dawn, you will never fit in the world. That life is not for you.” I never forgot her words, but I still had a few more tests. I became pregnant at 20. My mother was so disappointed in me, but I still felt her love. When I had my beautiful daughter, something clicked in me. I realized I had a gift and God saw something in me. I went back to God. I went back to my first love, and entered the ministry.
I preached my first sermon in my twenties. We might change our direction, but God never changes His plan. He said, “I am God, and I change not.” One day I preached a sermon, and my twin sister came to the altar and gave her heart to the Lord. Another Sunday I preached a message, and my mother gave her heart to the Lord. My dad eventually stopped drinking and came to know that God loved him. I began to see God always had a purpose for my life. It all started with a light in the house.
God has strengthened me over the years. It was love at first site for God. A lesson I needed to learn. I have entered a place where no matter what battle I face, God loved me first. He created me to be a part of this beautiful place called life. Not a life of perfection, a life lived in holiness walking with Him.
The recent television series “The Bible” has been a beautiful reminder brought back to life. Sometimes we need a reminder of the price Jesus paid for our salvation experiences. As Jesus carried the cross down the Via Dolorosa, I realize this walk is a journey, and in Christ, we are never alone.
Dawn Smiling enjoys volunteering at Grace Family Church as a prayer counselor, part of the soul care ministry, and as a table leader for Beautiful Monday Nights.