It’s God’s will or nothing!
by Glen Doss, Major –
The woman watched in dismay as the probation officer placed handcuffs around her wrists to take her to jail. In her cell hours later, she berated herself: “I’m back in jail! I can’t believe I’ve done it again! Once again I will be disappointing my children, my family and God. I’ve lost my freedom and my ability to care for my two sons and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it!”
Turning to God, she demanded, “Please tell me why I’m here? Am I that bad?” Then his still, small voice spoke to her through the turmoil of her emotions, “Jennifer, you’re still not getting it. I want ALL of you!”
Dropping to her knees, she pleaded, “Then, God, take ALL my life. From now on, it’s God’s will or nothing. I’m tired of disappointment and despair. My life belongs to you.”
Recalling that pivotal moment in April 2005, Jennifer Smith, 39, said, “From that moment, I have been focused on doing only God’s will.” She came to this momentous decision via a difficult path. Both her parents have been married four times. “Growing up, I had my share of stepparents, some abusive, coming in and out of my life.” Feeling “threatened and very alone” at age 13, Jennifer began drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. By her twenties she was addicted to methamphetamines and prescription drugs.
Although baptized into the Catholic faith, Jennifer said, “I never really knew who Jesus was or what he had done for me.” Then while attending a 1994 Harvest Crusade, she accepted Christ and became “on fire for the Lord.” However, two years later, upon encountering an old boyfriend who was an addict, “I was torn between the two lifestyles and began using drugs again very heavily,” she observes regretfully. Later that year, “hanging out at a drug house” where she got methamphetamines and marijuana, she met her future husband with whom she had two children.
Arrested in 2004 for “fraudulently passing phony prescriptions,” she was subsequently in and out of jail over several months. Court-ordered to complete The Salvation Army Anaheim Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) six-month program in February 2005, she recalls checking in with a negative attitude. Two-and-a-half months later she was terminated for a rule violation. Later seeing her probation officer, she was surprised to find herself in handcuffs, being escorted away to jail.
Dramatically rising from her knees in the cell following her prayer of absolute surrender, Jennifer said she was a very humbled person.
“I stepped out of self,” she said. “I threw all my worldly desires out the window and set out to receive all God had in store for me. I was so grateful to him for my willingness—that in itself was a miracle.”
Jennifer had recently read The Purpose Driven Life. Applying what she had learned, she led morning devotions and led Bible Studies with the other inmates.
“Reading my Bible aloud, I attracted a couple of the girls, then half a dozen,” she said. “I invited some who had never before been to church to attend the jail worship services with me.”
She was committed to doing God’s will and knew that God wanted her to remain clean and sober and to complete The Salvation Army program from which she had been terminated—though she was no longer court-ordered to do so. After completing her 60-day jail sentence, she set out to do just that.
“This time I did the program by the letter. I humbled myself and set out to receive all that it had to offer because I knew it was from God,” she said.
Jennifer was greatly impressed at the ARC by Captains Henry and Bernadine (“Dina”) Graciani, then administrator trainees. “Henry and Dina are my role models,” she said. “They have something that I want—the way they bless so many lives and give all the glory to God. Through my friendship with them, God revealed to me that’s the direction he wants me to go. Major Moses Reyes (director of rehabilitation services) has also been an inspiration.”
Jennifer was enrolled as a soldier in the Anaheim Red Shield Corps in March 2006, three months after completing the ARC program. She regained custody of her children a few months later. In May 2007, Jennifer applied for entrance into The Salvation Army College for Officer Training in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., looking to enter the college this coming September. Along the way she met and fell in love with Paul Swain, a soldier of the Santa Monica Corps, who is also applying for entrance to the College for Officer Training.
“God brought Paul into my life at just the right time,” Jennifer said. “He has been such a support and inspiration to me.
“God has made it clear that he wishes me to live a life committed to spreading the good news that ANYTHING is possible with Jesus in your life,” she said. “He can change anybody just like he did me—I can’t keep that to myself. It’s my job to spread the word. It’s what he wants me to do.”