Each April 16, I write a blog talking about what happened 38 years ago. On April 16, 1978, my mother (Sarah Leon) was murdered by my biological father. She was literally carrying me out of harms’ way when she was shot and killed. I could have been, probably should have been killed as well. She was murdered on my mama’s (Maxie Stoddard) birthday and was then buried on mine. I take a moment to remember each year and reflect as a way to honor her memory, as well as honor the sacrifice that my mama and daddy (Maxine and Connie Stoddard) made when they adopted me.
This year’s reflection is a day early, seeing as how the 16th is on a Saturday. Thank you for this personal reflection a day early.
Prooftexting is the concept where you take a verse of the Bible and use it defend a position that you already have. Instead of letting the Bible speak and using that to formulate your beliefs, you use the Bible to defend a position you already have.
We have to be careful with our use of the Bible. With that said, I want to share with you the two verses of the Bible that have shaped everything about me.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.
I have said it before, it’s one of my mantras, the power of God is not that He stops bad things from happening. It’s that He can bring good out of anything. That has been the story of my life.
I should have been forgotten. I am a child of abuse, a child that would have been easy to write off. I came from brokenness. I have been impacted by violence, by addiction, by all of these destructive things.
I have never been able to have a conversation with the woman who gave me birth. She has never met the granddaughter named after her. I have struggled with worry and the fear of losing relationships since I was a child; it’s second nature to me. I think it’s why I work so hard, I am afraid of failure and know that everything can be taken from you in a moment’s notice.
But y’all, I’ve been blessed. Yes, I’ve tasted pain. But I’ve been blessed. I was adopted by my grandparents. I was raised in a great church. I was nurtured and taught by a great school. I have an amazing wife and two beautiful kids. I don’t know a pastor that has had the privilege to serve better churches than I’ve served these past 17 years.
I’ve been blessed.
Yes, life is hard. Yes, I would give anything, anything at all to have known my Mama Sarah. Anything. But God has worked all these things for good. What humans intended for evil, God intended for good.
God guided my steps. If I had not been raised by my family, I wouldn’t have gone to Johnston Chapel UMC, which means I may not be a Chrisitan, much less a United Methodist, which means I wouldn’t have served Boyle, Linn, Litton, Coy, Stallo, Ripley First, Asbury, and now St. Matthew’s United Methodist Churches. I would not have been blessed by them and hopefully through me, they have experienced God’s grace in some way.
If I hadn’t been raised by my parents, I wouldn’t have gone to Bogue Chitto which means I wouldn’t have gone to Co-Lin which means I wouldn’t have met Holly and wouldn’t have my family.
Yes, my Mama Sarah’s murder was a tragic event that forever shaped and scarred many lives. But the power of God is not that God stops bad things from happening. It’s that He can bring good out of anything.
There’s not a single part of your life, of your story, that He can’t redeem and used for your good and for His glory. Not a part.
What humans intended for evil God intended for good.
He can use it all. All of it. That’s my story. That’s my song. That’s my life. I am thankful that God has been present in all my life, the good and the bad. I am thankful for my mama and my daddy, I am thankful for Mama Sarah, my family and my churches.
And I am thankful for God’s grace.
Today, no matter what you are facing, I promise you, I promise you, God can use it.
Today, on the anniversary of this dark day in my family’s life, I am thankful that God has brought goodness out of pain. I pray you never have to experience that type of pain, but I know, I know, whatever pain you experience, God can use it.
Today, may He receive the glory for the good He brings through all our lives.