Who has been the greatest influence in your spiritual life?
I have had several people who have been great influences in my spiritual life and I am lucky enough to continue to have more, even to this day which is a very good thing for me because I always need that. The first person that became a great influence in my spiritual life, other than my mom, was a friend of our family’s (who I will call Ralph). He was a preacher, or associate-preacher at our church. Him, his wife, and children were always very nice and I looked up to them. They always seemed happy. I did not know them well at the time, being so young, and we left that church for a while. I started visiting the church again as a teenager with one of my best friends and became very active in the youth group. Ralph was now the main pastor. The youth group went on outings, trips and church camp. I began to see how extremely dedicated he was to the Lord and to his family and the church. This was encouraging to me since I did not have a dad in my life that showed those characteristics. I had been hurt by most of the men in my life and Ralph seemed to be one of the first men that did not want to hurt me. I did not continue to attend his church, yet I still knew that if I ever needed anything, he would be there for me. When that time came and I started to have serious questions about why my dad abused me and how my dad was still able to preach in a church and claim to believe in God, then say he didn’t believe in Him at all, I wrote Ralph a letter asking him these things. I was searching for these answers from anyone and everyone I thought might be able to help me. He wrote me back and tried to explain his beliefs about the situations and mainly what the Bible had to say about them. When my dad committed suicide, his funeral was on my fourteenth birthday. My mom was told that she was not welcome at my father’s funeral. Ralph volunteered to take me and my brother to the funeral and be there to support us. That meant the world to me. Ralph eventually quit pastoring the church to start a ministry. He visited with my grandma when she was dying from cancer and she decided to turn her life over to God because of these visits and discussions they had. I volunteered with his ministry and was able to spend quite a bit of time with him. I learned more about who he was and that he, like everyone else, had his own trials and struggles that he had dealt with in life, yet it seemed that his faith in God never wavered and that was amazing to me at the time. I had been so angry at God and so confused and Ralph helped me to understand, in a loving way, that even though I was a sinner and angry at God, God would still love me. He was able to show me through his own life, how God works. I still made many mistakes after my time volunteering and had a lot of anger, but I know that was the beginning of my spiritual journey and the reason I am where I am able to be today. I know that God sends people into our lives for all kinds of reasons. Ralph became a father figure to me and showed me that not all father’s hurt their daughters. He showed me that it was okay to trust and have faith in God because God would never, ever hurt me.