Isn’t it amazing how God’s hand is in something and it takes years before we even know about it? Let me tell you a story.
I was eight years old, sitting around the kitchen table during a weekend visit to my dad’s house. I heard this unfamiliar voice come on the radio, and within seconds, my life changed.
The song was “Silver and Gold.” As I listened to your voice, I knew I wanted to hear that song over and over again. My mom bought the cassette tape of “Eagle When She Flies” and I eventually wore it out. Actually, I’m listening to the CD as I write this. It’s still my favorite.
You see, that song and your voice meant more to me then you’ll probably ever know. I really had no idea what the song meant. I hadn’t learned about Jesus, but I knew when I heard that song, I would be safe.
By the time I was introduced to your music I had been molested by three different people. The smell of whiskey was a familiar scent in my life, as I had learned to mix my dad’s drinks by the time I was six. I longed for his acceptance, but often felt abandoned and convinced he loved alcohol more than me. My mom was working all the time to support us. I felt alone in the world from a very early age.
But when I turned your music on I could drown out the world. I was safe. If only for a moment. Safe from anyone hurting me. Safe from the pain of the world. Safe from the reality of fear that hovered over me. I grew up reading about you, watching you on television, and listening to your music. I would hear you talk about God and something inside me longed for that relationship you had with Him, even though I didn’t yet understand it.
Most of my life was spent running from something. Running from pain. I ran to food, alcohol, drugs, and relationships I didn’t belong in. I ran from the memory of being raped as a teenager. Whatever would make the pain stop. Then, in 2006, I was introduced to Jesus. I was introduced to the Savior you had been unknowingly teaching me about for years. My life hasn’t looked the same since.
In 2009, my father died because of addiction. I could no longer hold the sadness of my heart in and I was at the end of myself. I too needed help, and so for one intense year, I lived with a former prostitute, drug dealer, drug addict, and alcoholic, in a women’s discipleship program. There, in the midst of one of the hardest times of my life, I finally understood the love of God. I finally grasped grace, mercy, and redemption.
Today I walk in freedom. I understand my father was a broken, hurting man. I have forgiven those who abused me. I’ve lost 145 lbs., and I experience joy I never knew possible.
In a few weeks I will be 30 years old, and God has me on a path I never knew I would walk on. I am going into full-time ministry, opening a residential discipleship program for women, called Esther’s House of Redemption, much like the one I graduated from, in Branson, MO. I will be using my past and the redemption God has shown me, to offer hope to broken women. And you can bet they’ll be introduced to your music.
You taught me about Jesus when I was a small child and neither of us knew it. You sang a song that unknowingly drew me near to our Savior. Of all the songs in the world, that would be the first I heard from Dolly Parton? Coincidence? I think not. God has His hand in everything and I love that about Him.
I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for never giving up on your dreams, despite people laughing at you. Thank you for recording “Silver and Gold.” Thank you for talking about Jesus, even when I didn’t know who He was. Thank you for being a safe place to run to when I didn’t know where else I could turn. Thank you for being you.
Someday, I look forward to the opportunity to shake your hand and give my heartfelt appreciation for the wisdom you have shared with me. For teaching me about perseverance. For teaching me about dreaming dreams that are bigger than we could ever imagine. It would be my honor to have you visit the house we are transforming for the women. To see first hand the lives you are helping transform, because you were a key part in transforming mine.
See you next time you’re in Branson, perhaps?