The most important event of my life occurred in the early autumn of 1947 two weeks before my fourteenth birthday. If I had not experienced it and someone else told me this story, I would probably not believe it, so if any reader is skeptical, I will understand.
I was picking cotton on a plantation in northeastern Arkansas to earn money for school clothes. A neighbor of ours was transporting people from our area to and from the cottonfields about twenty miles from my home. There were about fifteen of us, I believe, from my age to elderly, working in the field that day. Among them my pal, Polly, a year older than I, and her mother and step-father.
Polly and I were picking a row each and a "snatch row" between us. That is, the two of us picked three rows as we went along. The one having her row ahead would pick the snatch row to keep all three rows even. Polly's parents were picking two rows each, as most of the workers were, so we soon pulled ahead of the others, giving us privacy for our conversation which we needed for it mostly concerned our plans for rebellion and living the life of a libertine.
After a bit Polly's parents scolded us for doing more talking than picking. Polly sassed back using profanity. Emboldened by her performance, I sassed too, but without profanity, as I had not picked up that habit. It wasn't done in our home. We did, however go to work in earnest because we knew we needed the money.We had about decided to use it for bus tickets to Texas to stay with a depraved uncle of Polly's who allegedly could get her a job singing on the radio.
We worked hard for awhile, Polly "walking" on her knees to save bending her back, and I standing bent over the rows, as I never was any good at picking from a kneeling position. When my back began to complain in earnest, I stood to give it a rest. It was a pleasantly warm, but not hot day with a clear blue sky dotted with a few small fair weather clouds. I think I was facing roughly northwest staring aimlessly into the blue and thinking of nothing that I recall, enjoying a gentle, refreshing breeze that began to blow over me ---- then THROUGH me!! Through every cell of me!! Cleansing me entirely. I have never in my life felt so clean, so refreshed.
And then HE spoke to me. I didn't hear a voice nor see a form. But I was clearly and intensely aware of a communication directly into my consciousness from an OTHER of indescribable goodness, kindness and power, and I recognized Him as I would my mother or father. I felt I had known him before but had somehow forgotten him until that minute. I trusted him completely with no apprehension for he was, I knew, completely to be trusted.
Here, as nearly as I can express it in the clumsy medium of language, is the content of that communication:
I was made aware that sin was destroying me. I was shown the image of a form, that as I recall it seems now to have somewhat resembled a fetus (though at the time I had no idea what a fetus looked like) which I understood was myself. It was being eaten away by a horrible sore, disgusting and revolting in the extreme. I was made to know that He felt great sorrow for this state of affairs. He told me that if I would choose a path characterized by love and peace that he would be with me to guide me all the way and at the end of the path I would come to him. I was shown an image of a path through a wood and a light like a spotlight shining down upon it ahead of me. Then when he spoke of my coming to him I was caught up into the midst of a glorious golden light; suspended there, embraced in perfect love and peace and joy beyond expression, the joy of coming home at last. For this destiny I had been created.
Suddenly I was back in the cotton patch just as before, except my face was wet with tears. I was so terribly sorry for every unkind thing I had ever said or done. I felt a deep love for all people and a feeling of how infinitely precious each person is. I looked at Polly kneeling between the cotton rows looking up at me and her face was wet with tears as well. We had apparently had the same or very similar experience.
The first thing we did was to run back to where her parents were working and try to tell them what had happened and to apologize from our hearts for the way we had so recently spoken to them. The next Sunday we astonished everyone by appearing in church.
I have, over the ensuing years, considered many "explanations" for this event, and can honestly find none more believable than the one I unquestionably accepted at the time; We had an encounter with the living God.