Carla Tirrell, Director of Campus Ministry at Trinity Christian Academy in Cape Cod, had an unexpected encounter with God some 4 decades ago; it would radically change the course of her life forever. Read below of her profound experience with the God of providence.
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“I was in my second year of high school, in a class of six hundred students within a school of twenty-four hundred. Despite the size of the student body, I somehow managed to find friends and join lots and lots of extracurricular activities. I also worked part-time at the local Friendly's Ice-Cream shop. I had learned a new way to survive. I chose to stay outside my home as much as possible and to be home only long enough to sleep and change.
A typical day included class time from 8AM-2PM, with after school student council and yearbook meetings, and then rehearsals for drama and chorus until way after the sunset. I would come home in time to lock myself in my room so I could study and prepare for the next day.
There were no memories of family dinners, no memories of conversations about schoolwork and no help was offered with any of the typical teenage issues. The most consistent memory I have of my teen years is of being alone when I was at home.
Being outside of the house brought tons of relief from the chaos that was inside the house. My parents were constantly fighting, my father would go on drinking binges, and my mother would scream with rage.
I have come to thank God for my extreme loneliness when I was sixteen.
It was that loneliness that drove me out of my house on a stormy winter night in January. It was that exact same loneliness that found me at a prayer meeting at a local church. Sitting in the back of a room of about a hundred people, I tried to remember exactly how I had agreed to attend this meeting. The meeting was so weird to me that it was frightening. The adults in the room were lifting their hands and praying with the type of heartfelt enthusiasm that I had only witnessed at a rock concert. When they sang religious hymns, you could actually feel the room vibrate.
It was nothing like the cold and stiff services I had been brought to all my life. Maybe this entire thing was demonic. Better yet, maybe this God that they were praying to, did not exist at all. He certainly had never done anything for me.
I lived in isolation in a house that was supposed to be a family. My body carried the scars of physical beatings, while my heart carried the scars of verbal and emotional abuse. I had never had the experience of love, tenderness, trust, or community. My high academic success and extracurricular accomplishments came from my own personal drive. Not only had I never truly met this God they were praying to, but I thought I really didn't need him; I was self-sufficient. I had learned very well how to survive on my own.
Too embarrassed to leave the meeting, and too turned off to engage the process, I decided to ask their unseen God a question privately. So, I prayed, Do You exist at all? If You do, are these people actually talking to You or are they just worshipping a rock in the front of the room?
How was this God going to answer my question? I wanted an answer that would defy reason, defy logic, and defy coincidence. I know, I thought to myself, this God must bring me a long stem red rose tonight before I leave this church. This demand, I knew in my heart, could never be fulfilled. It was a Sunday night, all the stores were closed, and there was a storm outside. I already knew the answer to my question.
The meeting ended and I ran to grab my coat, anxiously looking for my ride home. Suddenly the pastor reentered the room. He asked everyone to return to their seats. Now what? I thought to myself. What is he going to do next?
He placed a large package on the table in front of the room. He said, "I found this on the church steps as I was leaving the building. There was a note attached to the package. The note said to give one to everyone in the room tonight."
The pastor carefully opened the package. Inside, were ninety long stem red roses; there were exactly ninety people in the room that night. This gift was a sign of God's love for each attendee at the prayer meeting.
I met Jesus Christ in this prayer meeting; it was in a poor city, on a cold, stormy, winter night. I met Jesus Christ when I was convinced that love did not exist in the world.
Suddenly, and without further questioning, I knew that there was a God in the universe and that His name was Christ. No one else but Him knew my prayer. No one else heard the silent plea of my heart.
That moment was my first experience of being loved. He had sent ninety long stem roses to the porch of a church. He did it for one small sixteen-year-old girl who was lonely and isolated and at risk of shutting down her heart to Him forever. That night was just the beginning of my understanding of His radical love for me.
Forty years have passed since that fateful night and that providential encounter; for the past twenty-six years, I have been in full time ministry to teens. I have shared my rose story hundreds of times at prayer gatherings and at youth retreats. I have watched thousands and thousands of teens meet Christ personally for the first time. Each time it happens, it changes their life forever, just like it changed mine.
Each time is a miracle of His radical love for each of us.”
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