“Oh, God … if there be a God … reveal yourself to me!” I presume that God answers that prayer for every person who sincerely sends his or her desperate petition wafting to the skies. At least He answered mine before the next midnight.
High school closed for the day. I had several hours for leisure before rehearsal in the town hall for a coming Christmas play. How to spend these four hours was the question.
Walking the ice-sheeted streets with my father, I noted a sign that read: “Revival Meeting. Robert Semple, Irish Evangelist. All Welcome.”
“Let’s go in,” Dad suggested.
“Righto!” I replied, carelessly. Little did I realize this was to be the turning point in my life. News of this revival had reached my ears. Curiosity drew me.
The song service moved with gusto. The milkman lifted his hands as he sang. So did the dry cleaner. I giggled with amusement.
I sobered suddenly. The evangelist entered with a Bible under his arm. He stood some 6 feet 2 inches tall.
One might laugh with him, for his message effervesced with humor; but one did not laugh at him. That was out of the question.
“Let us turn to Acts 2:38-39,” he said. Then he read: ” ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call’ ” (NKJV).
Then he started to preach. Cold shivers ran up and down my back. I had never heard such a sermon. According to his gospel, everyone was bound either for heaven or hell. There was no middle ground.
“Call upon Him while He is near, and seek Him while He may be found!” he implored.
Then he began to talk of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. As he described the living, vital power that he declared had been poured out on thousands in this latter day, his face glowed as though an electric light had been turned on from within.
Invisible hands had reached out and were shaking my soul. I knew then that there was a God and that I was a lost sinner. In blind panic, I rose and fled the place.
But it was too late. The gospel hook of the Fisher of Men had caught me firmly. I do not remember how I got through the rehearsal at the town hall that night, but I do know that for three days I sought to laugh it off, skate it away, and drown my misery in ragtime music, to no avail.
The third day, while driving home in our small sleigh on that December afternoon in 1907, I could hold out no longer.
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I cried. The sun burst through the clouds. A great peace fell over me. Great tears were splashing down on my gloved hands as I held the reins.
Recess time and noon hours I spent with my Bible. When I prayed, I talked to Christ. When I read His Word, He talked to me.
Later, I prayed: “Lord, you are doing all the giving. What can I do in return?”
Running to my Bible for His answer, I found words such as, “He who wins souls is wise” (Prov. 11:30). It was as though a great voice had spoken in trumpet tones: “Now that you have been saved-go help rescue others!”
Kneeling by my bed in the little upstairs room, I closed my eyes very tightly and concentrated on the problem. In fancy I saw a wide, black, swift river rushing past. Millions of men, women and children were being swept to destruction in it, and, flinging up their hands appealingly, were dashed over the raging falls to a fearful fate.
“Even as I have been lifted,” I sobbed, “I should in turn stretch out my hand to all whom I can reach and draw them to solid ground. I should be willing to cross the continent on my knees to say to one poor sinner, ‘Jesus loves you.’ ”
Adapted from Aimee: The Life Story of Aimee Semple McPherson by Aimee Semple McPherson, copyright 1979. Published by the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.