The American dream: I had it all! Well, okay . . . it all belonged to my mom and stepdad, but everything—from education to vacations, from clothes to cars—was at my fingertips. Despite having it all, my heart was still yearning for authentic, unconditional love that would give me purpose. This undefined longing led me to alcohol, drugs, and people who promised to love me, all in an effort to fill an empty void. This road led, as it always often does, to separation from my family and losing many friendships.
Rejected by family and friends, I was living with my boyfriend, Sam, in a trailer park. One morning I found myself staring at a Bible that had been accidently left behind by someone who came to party with us. Being very fond of crime stories and mysteries, I had the habit of reading the last chapter of books first. I remembered back to my days at the Christian school I attended when I was growing up. It seemed that often we would start religion classes in Genesis but never made it to the New Testament, much less to the last chapter. As I stared at the Bible in front of me, I thought aloud: “I wonder if there is an ending to that book.” I picked it up and began in Revelation.
Two hours later, Sam was rushing home to check on me. Why? After finishing Revelation, I immediately called him on the phone and said, “Jesus is coming back.” When he arrived home, I talked more about what I had been reading. We decided that day we needed to go to church but didn’t act immediately. A few weeks later, after a very late Saturday night, we found ourselves wide awake early on Sunday morning. Waking up early was unusual for us; we were reminded of our decision and headed to church.
We arrived at 11:00 on the dot and were ushered to the second row in the sanctuary. The message I heard that day was about drugs, alcohol, and living in sin. My heart dropped and the blood drained from my face. I was caught. As the congregation stood for the benediction song, the pastor gave an invitation to come forward. I stood still for two verses until I heard someone say, “Do you want to go up?” It was Sam. I replied, “I guess we could.” So we did.
That day, we repented of our sins and were made right with God. We were delivered from addictions that held us captive.
On our way home, I accepted Sam’s proposal to marry him, and six days later, we were married. Many other miracles ensued over the next few months, but the most important testimony Sam and I can give after 27 years is that God is able, and God is faithful.
The sermon we heard at church that day happened to be recorded. On our 20th anniversary, I obtained a copy of it, and we played it in the parsonage of the church I now pastor. To my surprise, the message was not on drugs and alcohol at all, the way I had remembered and had felt the Lord impress upon my heart years ago. The pastor’s invitation was for couples to come forward—those who would like to serve the Lord in fulltime ministry. We, along with the others, had responded. Our sovereign God works in mysterious ways!
Camelot Shuff is pastor of Newport News Church of the Nazarene in Newport News, Virginia, where she has served since 2015.
Please note: This article was originally published in 2021. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.