Nestled in the foothills of the majestic Rocky Mountains was my hometown. Layton, Utah. It was breathtaking.
It was also very religious. 95% Latter Day Saints (LDS). And we were not LDS...not anything really. We were outsiders. I hated that I couldn’t participate in the other kids’ conversations. And I decided at a young age that I wanted nothing to do with religion. I closed that door and bolted it shut.
My own god
But we all have to lean on something, and I quickly found one thing everyone could agree on: grades. Success became my god, and that served me quite well through life: Grad school, a loving marriage, three amazing kids, an exciting career as a technology director. One by one, I achieved every milestone on my list. But something was...missing.
Filling the void
I eventually decided that this “something missing” related to my job, so I embarked on a new career in Leadership Development. I was sure it would provide the purpose I craved. At first, it was exhilarating — traveling the world, inspiring leaders. But within months, the excitement faded. My kids wondered why I was always gone. And then the job got harder. I floundered, unable to hit my sales quota. I was failing as a business leader and as a mother. What had started as a void became a great gulf and, for the first time, I had no idea how to fix it.
One night in a dark hotel room in Vienna, Virginia, I sat alone, missing my family. I thought about the mess I’d created through my selfish desire to have it all. I thought of the job I’d left behind and the family who missed me. It was official: I was a failure. I stepped off my imaginary throne and hung my head in defeat. I never thought of God...but I said out loud in that empty hotel room three very important words I'd never said before: "I. Give. Up."
Something shifted in that moment. My bolted door unlocked. And then things really got weird... It started with a medical article I received from my son's doctor a few days later. Way down on page 72, I noticed something unusual: a small paragraph about the healing power of God. I read it, confused at first, but then read it again. Somehow, I couldn’t stop reading it. The next morning, out of the blue, I felt a longing to listen to Christian music. I’d never listened to Christian music before. In fact, I looked down on it and wasn’t even sure how to find it. I opened my Spotify app and curiously typed “God.” What popped up was beautiful. I couldn’t turn it off.
The next day, out of nowhere, as clear as a photograph, an image came to my mind of my kids’ old karate teacher. I remembered how loving he was to his students. I'd never seen leadership like that. They adored him. And I suddenly remembered: He had invited me to church one day...six years ago. At the time, I shrugged it off. Barely knowing what I was doing, I pulled out my phone, found his number, and texted:
“Can I go to church with you?”
He said yes (of course). And with great trepidation, I wandered the next day through the doors of a modest church, where I felt the presence of a powerful something I couldn’t name and had never experienced. The message was about grace. It seemed crafted for me alone.
At the front of the church stood a couple after the service below a big wooden cross, offering prayer. The next thing I knew, there I was, their hands on my shoulders, asking for prayer. Tears rolled down my face as I complete strangers showed me love. It was the first time in my life I had ever been prayed over.
Shaking it off
I flew to Austin the next day for a conference, happy to have a moment to absorb or even “shake off” everything that was hitting me. I checked into my hotel, still lost in the mess of my job, and began unpacking my things. Then at 5:51 pm, I received a text. It was a from the karate teacher, and it read:
"Without you totally understanding what I mean, I pray that the ‘Holy Spirit’ (God) reveals to you what He revealed to me almost 30 years ago."
I stopped unpacking and sat on the bed, reading his text. True, I didn’t quite understand what he meant, but I did understand the kindness of this prayer in my hands. That this man took time out of his day to think of me and then to send this prayer...it floored me. It felt like the prayer I had received at the cross: Free. Undeserved. Abundant. I held my phone, thinking about this text, about my life, about church, about the sermon and the music on Spotify...And then the phone rang.
It was my Auntie Jean, and she sounded nervous. "I have something important to tell you," she said. I sat up.
“This is going to sound crazy, but I’m supposed to call you right now...and tell you...about God.”
I was stunned. First, the karate teacher's text praying for revelation, and then this call? Is it possible that his prayer somehow stirred Jean’s heart all the way in Texas? She'd never met this man in California. What was going on? "What made you call me right now?" I asked. She paused.
"You know the night Missy died?" she said, speaking of her daughter who had died of an aneurism in the middle of the night decades earlier, a young mother at the time. She said she had felt compelled to call her that night but ignored that nudge, as it was late and she didn't want to wake her. She could have spoken to her one last time, or even perhaps detected the health problems that would take her life just hours later. Not calling her was the biggest regret of Jean's life. Jean made a promise to God in the wake of it all: if she ever felt compelled like that again, she would obey.
She felt like that tonight. So she obeyed.
In the minutes that followed, Jean didn't preach. She didn't push. She simply opened her heart to me. She shared the moment her grief lifted after Missy's death. How she felt Godin a swarm of butterflies one morning on her porch. And she told me about Jesus: who He was to her, who she believed He is to us all. I began to feel something I'd never felt before. I can describe it only like being in the arms of my mother. I was somehow held, completely safe, abundantly loved, enclosed. I heard in my head a single word over and over. I had heard it when discovering the music on Spotify the week earlier. It was this: "Truth. Truth. Truth." And then it began to dawn on me, like sunrise after a long night: I was in the middle of the most important conversation of my life.
As this miraculous conversation ended just 30 minutes later, I knew that I would have to make a decision: Was this an amazing coincidence...or was it true? There were only two options. “Jean,” I said, barely getting the words out: “I believe you.”
We hung up the phone, and the flood overtook me. Joy, transcendent. Like light pressing through the cracks of a tiny room that I thought was the world and bursting it open. It was majestic. Unworldly. Euphoric. I started that call as a skeptic and ended it, a believer. God was real. I knew it. And I was in the middle of a miracle.
And just as suddenly: a powerful sadness swept over me, an awareness of a lifetime of ignoring love that had so patiently pursued me. A love that had given me abundance: A husband. Children. An education. Loving parents. Work. Safety. My very life. A Love I had locked so completely out of my life but was there all along ... just waiting for me to notice.
I tried to pray but couldn’t speak somehow, and instead fell to my knees. It was the saddest feeling I’ve ever experienced. A shocking pang. Like accidentally running over a child. The moments, wrenching, as I became aware of a lifetime of pride. Though the room was dark, it felt so bright that I could barely open my eyes. The sound in my head: cacophonic. For three hours, I repented.
And then, just like that, it was finished: my sacrifice on the altar. The sadness lifted, my head quieted, and the room again felt dark, as it should be. It was then that I spoke my first words to God. Yes. To God. To the God of the Universe. My Father.
I waited eagerly to return from this Austin trip, marinating in a most wonderful feeling. A physical warmth in my heart so strong I had to clutch my chest to contain it. I talked with the karate teacher, I read the Book of John, I prayed. Every step safer than the last, I landed in San Francisco on Sunday, went straight to that modest little church, and said a messy prayer of commitment with the five people who happened to be there. I acknowledged that Jesus was Lord, that He died for me as a sacrifice so that I would know God. And that He rose again. Rebirth. That was January 15, 2017.
To say that life transformed is barely to touch it. The loveliest community welcomed me into their lives across Silicon Valley. Family members and friends have found faith alongside me. And within weeks, I was offered my old job back. No travel. A second chance. My family was ecstatic.
Returning to work on April 17, the day after Easter and my own baptism, I began to pray at work and then started a prayer group there that people have joined by the hundreds. See "Out of the Shadows." In December of 2017, a few of us partnered to launch Faithforce, my company's first-ever Faith Diversity Employee Resource Group (ERG). It quickly became the fastest growing ERG in company history. See the Office of Equality's announcement here. I have had blessed opportunities to share my story in blogs, university talks, and conferences and to consult with many brave souls who want to start their own workplace fellowship groups. I am watching the Bay Area change before my eyes.
The five steps
As I look back finally and piece it all together, this is what it all looked like for me. It's the process I now see repeated over and over again with others, though every journey is unique.
A simple and powerful process. You can even follow it now if that's where you're at. Then be sure to plug in right away with someone who can support you.
Life overflows with purpose and possibility. I am to love others as Jesus loves them and help make it safe for people to express or explore faith — wherever they are in their journeys. I work for God, and He has quite the plans for me. If I take the time to ask, He reveals those plans to me one day at a time and gives me exactly what I need that day to accomplish them. He leads; I lean.
Today He asks that I share this story with you. I pray it encourages you. I pray, in fact, that we right now think about our own locked doors. Maybe it's the fear of talking about faith with others or even exploring it to begin with. Maybe it is the pain from past hurts walling up our hearts in protection.
May we listen for the precious knocks on the door of our life. The knocks may sound like a song on Spotify, or the word God in a medical article, or an unexpected invitation to talk about faith. Perhaps it is that person in your life whose kindness stops you in your tracks. Who loves you when they don't have to. Who makes you think about God. May we hear those knocks, and may we open the door. He will come in.
Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in...”
What about you?
Are you the karate teacher? It may take your friends years to take you up on your offer to chat about faith, but they’ll think of you when they’re ready. You don't need to be a Biblical expert or have a huge arena of influence. Be like Jesus wherever you are. You may be the person who comes to mind at just the right moment.
Are you Auntie Jean? Shortly after Jean’s life-changing call, we heard the terrible news that she had Cancer. She passed away just months later. Jean’s call that night changed my life, and many others’ lives since. Perhaps it is changing yours right now. She obeyed, even though she was scared. What is God asking of you that may be scary?
Are you me? Are you tired of the pursuit of success? Are you becoming aware that you might be missing something? Consider the possibility: What if it’s true? What if Jesus really is who He says He is. Give yourself permission to explore. Here's a starter journey I like. Join my journey in Leanership and read about the peace that comes from leaning on God.