At the age of 17, I had another encounter with God. Now, I'm not saying that God was silent between the ages of 7 and 16 but as a middle-aged adult, this is the next occasion that stands out in my mind from my young life.
I was on a road trip with my aunt and uncle and a couple of cousins from Oklahoma to the west coast. I remember one stop along the way in Las Vegas in particular. Being below legal gambling age, I was not allowed to gamble (I didn't want to anyway) but I was allowed to go to the casino and sit on the inside edge and watch people. I've always enjoyed watching people and this was a novel environment. I was curious what happened in casinos.
I like to think that God does things specifically for me at times when he wants to teach me a lesson (BTW - I think God does that for other people, I'm no one special). In this instance, I don't know if what I saw was real or imaginary. But I remember looking to the side of the room and observing a man with a handful of dollar coins playing a slot machine. It was a big one so that he had to stand up next to it to play it. I was watching him. He put dollar after dollar into the machine and while doing so, I observed that he had one of the saddest expressions on his face that I had ever seen on a man. I heard God say to me, "do you want your life to be sad and dull like this man's or do you want to fully commit yourself to Me and do what I want you to do?" The question just hit me...I was stunned, I didn't really know what to say. I thought I was already doing what God wanted me to do. I pondered that question the rest of the day and later that evening, something occurred. While I was in my bed trying to sleep that nite, I couldn't get the question out of my mind. I spent time praying and asking God what it was that He wanted. He made it clear that He wanted me to give Him everything, including my aspirations. I remember saying "yes" to God and telling Him that He could have everything about me, all of me, just before drifting off to sleep.
Now since, my life hasn't been perfect and I still have a lot of spiritual growth to do, but I do believe that nite of consecrating myself entirely to God's purposes has had a profound effect on my life. There have been times when I wasn't sure I made the right decision to follow God and I have become discouraged. However, during those times, God's Holy Spirit has reminded me that I made this decision at age 17 and that it was a good decision. I am so thankful for these three specific times that God has spoken to me. They have become anchors, times I can point back to that demonstrate the reality of God in my life.