I attended church for years as a little girl. I learned Bible verses and memorized them, but there was something missing. I had a foundation of religion, but I didn't understand God's unconditional love or His forgiveness.
In high school, I met a young man and got into a relationship. We fell into sin, and I became pregnant. I gave birth to a daughter and had to relinquish her. No one except my immediate family knew. I carried so much shame over this that I felt that I was not worthy of love. I could not forgive myself.
"I reached up and said, 'Lord, I surrender. Forgive me of my sins.' I was washed. I felt so clean."
After graduation, I married this same young man—believing Satan's lie that no one else would want me. During our marriage we had a second daughter, but our relationship quickly became abusive. We got divorced, and I was suddenly a single mother with a baby girl. I started partying and continued to do so for the next thirty years. I even changed my name, calling myself Shari instead of Sharon. Shari was a woman who had no relation to God.
When I turned fifty, I had a huge breakdown. My second husband left me, and I spent the next six months drinking every night to cope with my sadness and loneliness. Then, one day, I just collapsed. The memory of that day remains vivid in my mind. I was standing in front of my fireplace, and I dropped to my knees. Then I heard a whisper, "Sharon." I asked my mother if she had called me, but she said no.
I broke down and cried. I felt the weight of all my selfish acts, all the lies that I had lived. I reached up my hands to heaven and said, "I need You, God. I cannot live this way." That moment was life-changing, but I knew I still needed help.
During this time, I was working in a position that had me driving to different places, so I was in my car quite a bit. One day, I turned on the radio and heard a man speaking. It was Dr. Youssef, and he was speaking about God's forgiveness, saying that we needed to reach out to God and totally surrender. I realized in that moment that I never really had. I felt like he was talking directly to me every time I listened to him on the radio. I'd never heard a pastor talk about the Bible like he did. I could hear his passion and his love for God. Through his messages, I finally forgave myself. I reached up and said, "Lord, I surrender. Forgive me of my sins." I was washed. I felt so clean. Everything that I had been carrying for so long disappeared. I started speaking with my husband who was divorcing me. I told him I had started going to church and learning about the Bible. I told him I was no longer the woman he had married. I explained to him, "I'm reborn."
Ultimately, my husband and I remarried. The joy and peace that I felt during this time was so phenomenal. One day, as I was driving and playing Christian music, I heard a voice quite clearly say, "Sharon, are you My daughter, or are you Shari?" I realized the Lord was speaking to me, and I said through tears, "Lord, yes. I am Your daughter."
At this point in my life, everyone knew me as Shari. I had to explain to so many people that I was changing my name. I even had my work change my ID and email address. For I am Sharon, and I am the daughter of the Most High God. Today, I see myself in a whole new light. From the Bible and from Dr. Youssef, I have learned that I was chosen before creation and that God has a purpose and a plan for me. I am seeking His guidance in everything.