Essays on Faith: A life-changing vision

When I was a little girl, a favorite uncle, who drank a lot and lived his life quite loosely in general, caused a lot of family confusion with a tactless remark.

The story goes something like this:

Uncle Ben got a job promotion. It meant better working conditions and a substantial salary increase. While he and several family members were sitting around one evening after dinner discussing Ben’s good fortune, his sister said, “God’s been very good to you! You should thank Him for this wonderful gift.”

To which Uncle Ben replied, “God didn’t have a thing to do with it. I did it all myself!”

That was many years ago, but I shudder to this day when I think about that comment and how it could have destroyed him.

Life went well for Uncle Ben for a while but, as all things, good or bad, must come to an end, so did Ben’s way of life. One Saturday night after he’d made his usual rounds of the bars, drinking and partying — his wife at home worrying about what might happen to him — he started driving home. But something went awry and Ben woke up at dawn slumped over the steering wheel wondering where he was. Then it all came back to him. Rubbing his sleepy eyes, he turned the key in the ignition, pulled onto the highway and headed home.

Once there, he went straight to the shower, then shaved and got all dressed up in his Sunday clothes. While he was pouring a cup of much-needed coffee, his wife asked, “Are you going somewhere?”

He answered, “I’m going to church with you.”

She was shocked, but delighted. She felt so proud that Sunday morning, walking into the sanctuary of her church with her handsome husband by her side. She said a prayer at the altar thanking God for answering her former prayers about changing her spouse.

That was the end of Uncle Ben’s drinking and carousing. He continued to attend church, became a member and was involved in everything he was asked to be.

Later, at a family gathering, Uncle Ben was asked, “What happened to make you change so drastically?”

Ben answered, “I don’t like to talk about it, but I’ll tell you this much: I came to the ‘end of the road’ that night, and seeing what was up ahead terrified me. It was so horrible that I can’t describe it!”

No matter how much people tried to get him to explain exactly what he saw while he was in his drunken stupor, he declined. Nobody knows, not even his wife. But we do know that it changed him from a man who was on a collision course to a faithful servant of God. He lived a wonderful Christian life until he died at 65.

Ben’s story is not unique.

We’ve all heard stories about people who had horrifying visions and how the experiences put such fear into them that it changed their lives forever.

Does God allow us to have visions that predict the future? We don’t have to go far to answer that question. There are a number of instances of prophetic visions and dreams in the Bible. We find them in Daniel, Zechariah, Revelation, and also scattered throughout the prophetic books. Isaiah and Ezekiel, for example, give particularly vivid reports of visions.

The sixth chapter of Isaiah relates Isaiah’s vision of the Holy God. This vision was Isaiah’s commission to be God’s messenger to His people. Seeing the Lord and listening to the praise of the angels, Isaiah realized that he was unclean before God, and could never measure up to His standard of holiness. But when his lips were touched with a live burning coal, he was told that his sins were forgiven. It wasn’t the coal that cleansed him, but God. Thus, Isaiah submitted himself completely to God’s service. The painful cleansing process was necessary before Isaiah could fulfill the task to which God was calling him.

Before we accept God’s call to speak for Him to others, we must be cleansed, confess our sins and submit to God’s control. Letting God purify us may be painful, but we must be purified before we can truly represent God, who is pure and holy.

We’ll never know what Uncle Ben saw, or dreamed, or if God allowed him to see it for a reason. Perhaps He wanted him to be a messenger to others. Maybe Ben’s terrifying vision was God’s way of cleansing him. In any case, we’re grateful his life changed for the better.

We can’t predict the future, but God knows our path. Lean on Him when you have a dream or anything you believe is a sign from Him.

Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro.

Essays on Faith may be submitted to gazette@wvgazettemail.com.

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Funerals for Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Ball, Sherman - 2 p.m., Spencer Chapel United Methodist Church.

Clay, Karen - Noon, Koontz Funeral Home, Hamlin.

Clonch, Daniel - 1 p.m., O'Dell Funeral Home, Montgomery.

Harvey, Joseph - 11 a.m., Donel C. Kinnard State Veterans Cemetery, Dunbar.

McClung, L. Bruce - Noon, Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Charleston.

Mills, Ambra - 1 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.

Pitsenbarger, Cindy - 7 p.m., Solid Rock Worship Center, Oak Hill.

Sowards, Teresa - 1 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Stilwell, Jason - 3 p.m., Strange Creek Cemetery, Strange Creek.

Vacheresse, Robert - 12:30 p.m., procession to leave Barlow Bonsall Funeral Home, Charleston.

Vaughan, Darlene - 10 a.m., Cross Lanes Baptist Church, Cross Lanes.