Can A Sermon Be Meant Just For Me?

girl patientHe said he would die if I left him alone,” I worriedly explained to the nurse. “I have to stay!”  My stepfather, Claude, a minister at a local church, had been run down by a car in the Houston Astrodome parking lot, and it seemed every part of his body had been shattered…

I sat there alone overnight in the near dark of the hospital room looking at Claude’s mangled body. It reminded me of my own mangled life. I had grown up in a home with an abusive parent, leaving me a timid and fearful child. To escape, I married really young. Nine bitter lonely years and two children later my husband revealed a dark secret so repulsive to me I could barely stomach looking at myself in the mirror. How could I have been so blind? We divorced, but the emotional trauma had been firmly embedded in me and my children. One of my children suffered with bipolar disorder so severely that three times she tried to commit suicide. I lost track of how many times she had run away. She turned to drugs.

Sometime around 3a.m. I sat there in the hospital staring at a “man of God” writhing in pain and wondered if he too questioned a loving God and if he also felt abandoned. Then I heard Claude stirring in his bed.  He mumbled and moaned with pain. I reached over to pull the sheet up to his chest. As I slumped back into my chair, he suddenly sat straight up in bed. I was shocked. It usually took two of us to turn him over, and he had not been able to even raise his head alone!

Without a pause, Claude thanked his “audience” and began one of the most amazing sermons I had ever heard. His voice was clear and strong. I frantically glanced around, hoping someone else would come into the room to witness this. No one did. I, alone, was meant to hear.

My stepfather spoke of the importance of using visualization to create a positive state of mind. He urged his invisible audience to use their imaginations to see their circumstances in a better light. He said that seeing things in a positive vein, as if that was the truth, would mirror that perception in reality. Visualization, he went on to say, was a way to bring healing and hope into expression, because seeing things the way one wished they were would cause them to become one’s experience.

For 15 minutes, he eloquently described how thoughts and actions become reality. It was Claude’s voice- his body- that delivered that sermon, but the source of those words was not of this world. I had never heard him utter the word “visualization” before.  He came from a background of traditional practices and these ideas were foreign to a conservative church like his. Even though he acted as if this were one of his usual Sunday sermons, he would never have said these things in his own church.

I chuckled as I imagined the response he would receive if he repeated this sermon to his own congregation, but I was also entranced by it. This sermon, clearly was meant for me. I perched on the edge of my chair eagerly listening, barely breathing for fear of missing even one word. Every sentence was relevant for me. Every word was directed at my attitude toward life. My heartbeat thundered in my ears and my breathing grew shallow.

A warm fullness filled my chest, expanding in the room. The deepest love I’d ever known exploded all around me. I tearfully whispered through measured gasps, “Oh my God!”

Just as suddenly as it all began, it ended. He fell back on his pillow and was sleeping once again. I stat motionless-stunned. The voice still echoed in my head, interrupted only by the steady beeping of the hospital monitors in the background.

Now I understood why I had needed to stay that night. I left that experience with a desire to return to the roots of my spiritual understanding. I began to visualize God in everything. And my whole world transformed.

  • Interview with Jodi McDonald and edited by David Paul Doyle in “When God Spoke To Me”