The Past Is Prologue

It started with a phone call.

“Brent, are you going to be home tonight? I need to talk.”

We were. She did.

And the tale was lurid, man. But you patrons will need some context, so let me fill you in.

It was 1988. I’d been in youth ministry all of about 8 minutes.

She was the All-American girl-next-door. A blue-eyed blonde that would take Doris Day back in a time machine. A wicked sense of humor and a laugh that let you know the party was just now getting good. Sharp wit. Great mind. The kind of girl high school guys all want to date but figure they have no shot with. A bow-headed cheerleader that forgot arrogance was supposed to be part of that package. Oh, yeah. She genuinely walked with Christ and was active not only in her church youth group, but also in our outreach ministry to her high school campus. And she was just a freshman.

We clicked her freshman year, too. She was in a small group Bible study I was leading. She invited me to everything she was cheering at: Freshman football games. Freshman basketball games. Cheerleading competitions. Youth group skits she was in. She came by the house with her friends often to just hang out. Our house was among her first stops for whatever fundraiser they were selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts for. Somehow she wrangled me into leading a devotional Bible study for the freshman cheerleaders. Somehow she wrangled my wife into having a spend-the-night party for her cheerleading squad. Like I said, we clicked.

And, in the spring she started seeing a guy on the football team. I knew his reputation because I led a devotional Bible study for the football team for a few years and this particular guy was likeable…but he didn’t have a lot of the spiritual advantages other kids have. That’s minimizing. But you get it, right?

She started wearing his letterman’s jacket during basketball season.

She started drifting a bit. Pulling away from friends, being too busy for the youth group skits, showing up late or missing small group, skipping our house for the fundraiser, missing the Friday morning devotional, not chatting with my wife between the freshman & junior varsity games.

And, I started asking the right questions.

“Hey kiddo, you doing okay spiritually? I mean, I’m seeing a couple of red flags since you started dating him.”

“Brent, things are going really well. I think I’m helping him grow spiritually and we talk a lot about Jesus and stuff.”

“Okay, dear. Just checkin.'”

By prom in late spring, I wasn’t seeing much of her.

Then the aforementioned phone call. And, in my den, in front of Tracy and I, we got the lurid details.

I won’t give you all of them…but there was a lot of skipping school and heading to his parent’s house. That’s minimizing. you get it, right? And in this particular situation…

…drum roll please…


She wanted to break up. He had, shall we say, leverage. In Poloroid form.

“Brent, please help me.”

So, I did.

And it was painful for everybody, man. That’s minimizing. You get it, right?

I believed the only way to shift the leverage was to get the truth out there. This involved parents. Imagine being 15 and having to tell your parents this little piece of information. But it was the start.

The next part was to arrange for the “leverage” to get swiped. Funny how youth ministers can get stuff like that done. It happened…and to this day I’m not exactly sure who destroyed them, but I remember they were.

And, for the next three weeks it was chaos. Meetings with parents. Threats from the kid who no longer had leverage. The high-school grapevine worked flawlessly with just enough truth to make the embellishments sound forthright. There were friends taking sides. There were brothers in the mix. This kid was low, man.

But it was her start of making her faith her very own.

For the next three years she grew in her understanding of God’s grace (I’m kinda big on that) and His ability to transform lives (I’m big on that, too). That’s minimizing. You get it, right?

We’d talk a lot. By her senior year she’d be telling me about God’s grace and goodness to her. She told me that it was like talking about a person she didn’t know…like it was telling the story of a character she’d read about in a book. That’s how I knew God was really at work in her life. Friends and family noticed, too. The All-American girl came back and in retrospect, her friends and family chalked that 6-month stretch of her life up to youthful indiscretion. That’s minimizing. You get it, right?

She went off to college and kept in touch somewhat.

She married a solid Christian man who loves her and adores her. They lead a Sunday School class at their church.

She’s got a couple of children. We chatted a few years ago at a Starbucks and got all caught up. Two daughters (they’re 8 and 6 now) who would make Doris Day wish she had a time machine.

And I’d ask her periodically to share the story of how God transformed her life. She’d politely decline, saying, “Brent, that’s a part of my past and I don’t even know that girl any more. Thanks for asking, though.” I stopped asking.

We got reconnected via Facebook.

And a couple of days ago her status update read simply, “It is time.” Followed by a message in my Facebook inbox asking for my phone number. Except she asked for my “digits.”

Turns out some women at her church wanted her to speak to their women’s conference…and in some sort of pre-meeting the leadership discovered the lurid tale for the first time. After hearing about how she wanted to talk about God’s grace and ability to transform lives, one of the leaders asked her if she’d ever told me “thank you.” The organizer said something like, “In your 15 minute testimony you mentioned him by full name three times. And you’ve never thanked him?”

It ended with a phone call.

You can have your salaries with three digits before the comma and expense accounts and use of the country club membership and season tickets and whatever other perks you want to throw in.

Because, I got a phone call…

…from a wonderful sister in Christ…

…who will stand up in front of 150 or so women at a resort in Guntersville, Alabama tonight…

…and talk about God’s unmerited favor…

…and talk about God’s divine enablement…

…and talk about the transformed life…

…and give glory to Jesus Christ for what He has done, is doing, and will do in her life…

…and she said, simply, “thank you for loving me when I was unlovable.”

…and she said, simply, “yes, I’ll come talk to your group. I have no idea why, for the last 20 years I didn’t want to tell other people what Christ has done for me. Seems kinda stupid now that I think about it.”

It is, indeed, time, dear. That’s not minimizing. You get it, right?