I grew up going to church on Sunday. It was mandatory. The only thing, is even though I went to church and I heard about God, the revelation wasn’t there. I heard about the hell and the heaven but I did not have a personal relationship. So I was just attending. It was don’t do this or don’t do that because God sees you. But there was that lack of not knowing who he was.
My idea of God was that he was this mighty ruler that will punish you if you did wrong. I remember being 4 years old and I asked my mom for something and she said no. And I said God, I am not your friend anymore because you are the reason why she said no. And to show you how much sense I had at four, I remember hiding under the table because I thought God was going to punish me because I had yelled at him. I grew up with the mindset of a judgmental God, not understanding how compassionate and loving and forgiving he is.
My first real experience with God was in junior high school. I was 13 years old and had gotten into trouble at school. I got arrested and had to go to juvenile detention center. I was on probation, and during that time my mom wanted to take me to the Bahamas. I went to the Bahamas on vacation and I overheard my stepfather’s mother and her friend talking about God. I went to church all these years, but it was at that moment in the Bahamas I realized that there is more to God than this crazy judgmental ruler. I will never forget my grandmother that day talking about how God speaks to her, and I remember thinking, “He speaks to people? What?”
One morning she woke me up at 5:00am. She took me outside and pointed to the sky and said that is where God is, and he doesn’t miss a beat. He sees everything that you do. And even in this court case if you confess your sins he’ll forgive you and he’ll wipe it all away. And then she said lets pray. And when I looked out into the sky, I literally felt that heart to heart connection. At that moment it was like a light went off and I knew. This was the first step to my journey. My grandmother bought me my first bible and it was like gold to me. That was the first moment I had that spark with him. But even though this happened, I still wasn’t fully there yet. Anytime you look at someone’s life and they’re not transformed, it’s because the revelation is not there.
I started to deviate from church after high school, when I didn’t have to make excuses of why I couldn’t go. I would just sit in my room and say I wasn’t going. I didn’t want to just sit in church and not know what they were talking about, or not be fully paying attention, or absorb things that had me living in worry that I was going to go to hell. I just got tired of the mixed emotions and just didn’t want to be bothered with it anymore. My lifestyle became completely different. I wasn’t going to church, I was smoking, I was drinking, I was fornicating and completely not in the will of God. I was far out. I didn’t want to talk about God, I didn’t want to hear him, I cussed like a sailor, I laughed at the church people, I just did whatever I wanted to do.
I was trying to find love dating the wrong guys and being disappointed. I was always overly sexual because I was exposed to sex at a young age. At one time I dated a guy who burned me so bad I smoked a whole pack of cigarettes because I felt l like my life was over. I was empty. I still remembered God, but I would drown my guilt by smoking and drinking. I couldn’t avoid him on my own, so I used substance to put my mind in a certain place. I felt like a married woman who cheats on her husband who’s a good person.
I remember watching a woman preacher one day. She was raw, and she was real. And the connection she had with God, I wanted that. I was still hanging out with women who were just as broken as I was, and then one day I remember thinking, what am I doing here? I don’t belong here. Why am I sitting here? And I literally felt like the veil was lifted from over my eyes, like these girls are really torn a part they have some deep rooted issues, and before I help them, I’m dwelling in the same thing that they’re in. And I got up and never went back.
A life disobedient to God only delays destiny. The enemy has a way of knowing your destiny is great. He knows what you’re called to do, so he tries to delay you as much as possible. When you step out of the covering, you’re open to so many attacks. I played on that turf and had to run back to Jesus for healing. I got my heart broken a bunch of times. All the things that happened to me that should not have happened to me was because I was not in the right place. So it looks good, but it comes with a price. There’s no way to walk in sin and not pay a price. The good part about it is, when you are handpicked you can’t avoid destiny. You can go on the other side, you can play in the dirt, and you’ll get dirty, but God calls you because he has a purpose. The grass always looks greener on the other side but its turf. It’s not real. Nothing beats being used by God and seeing the fruit of being obedient.
With revelation comes transformation. And so who God is to me now is the God that I go to with all my issues, so he can tell me how to get it right and how to get back on track. He’s my mentor, and my coach. I am now happily married, I got ordained and am a minister. I am being used by God spreading the gospel to help transform lives. When it comes to some of us who stepped away and haven’t gotten back to where we are, God is not so angry to where he would never forgive us. If he can forgive me he can and will forgive you. Your Destiny depends on it.
Shantae Austin is also a seamstress who designs. Keep in touch with her here, and see some of her work below!