By Teena Myers
“I walked away from my faith when I entered high school, but Mother didn’t give us an option about attending church, so I made her life a misery,” said Cissy. “Through all the trouble my mother endured, she retained her faith in God. I heard more than one person say, ‘Betty, how can you hang on to the Lord? You were married to a minister, and now you are raising your girls alone.’ I’ll never forget my mother’s answer: ‘God is all I have to hold on to.’”
After Cissy married her high school sweetheart, she wanted to return to church, but her husband wasn’t interested. Bill was raised as a Baptist, so Cissy joined a Southern Baptist church hoping he would follow. He didn’t, but he never prevented Cissy from attending.
“The Baptist church was wonderful. I actively participated in its ministries, thinking it would fill the void in my life. Religious activities left me empty. I went to the altar so often one of the altar workers told me I must be saved or I wouldn’t be so concerned about my salvation. I was looking for a feeling, an emotion, something I could point to as a proof of my salvation.”
One night, Cissy dreamed Jesus had come to catch his church away to heaven, and she was left behind. She attempted to follow, using her arms as wings, but tired easily and kept falling to the earth. Finally, she fell from the sky into a standing dead tree. “I’ve got you now,” the devil laughed as he pulled her out of the tree. Terrified, Cissy awoke. A line from an old hymn came to mind: “There’s room at the cross for you. Though millions have come, there’s still room for one. There’s room at the cross for you.”
“That is when I knew that the Lord was still calling me and there was still hope for me,” said Cissy.
Cissy and her sister, Brenda, were returning from a trip to St. Petersburg when her heart pounded with anxiety. “I knew the Lord was pursuing me, and I was tired.” Cissy confessed her spiritual struggle to Brenda and asked to talk to Brenda’s pastor.
The pastor had known Cissy’s family for many years. He listened patiently and then put his arm around her, and they knelt to pray.
“I didn’t feel better after we prayed, but I just knew if I went to the church on Wednesday night, I would meet God.”
Cissy walked into the church and met her grandmother at the altar. Grandma read scriptures to Cissy, assured her Jesus loved her, and prayed Cissy would release her fears. “After Grandma prayed with me, I felt the floodgates of heaven opening up, yet I still didn’t sense the freedom I longed for. My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother embraced faith, making it natural to love the Lord, but for me, accepting his forgiveness was a process.
Cissy returned to the church she had abandoned and began singing gospel music with her sisters. Their trio quickly grew to twenty-two members, including a live band. They traveled from church to church, spreading the gospel through music. “My husband often traveled with us, loading and unloading the van. I remember seeing him sitting in the services clutching the pew in front of him so hard it would shake as he struggled with conviction.”
One night, Cissy and Bill were sitting in church when their youngest daughter began to cry. Cissy took her to the nursery. A woman in the nursery shared how her husband had walked away from God. She didn’t believe he would ever come back. Cissy felt the Lord quicken her heart as she said, “I will never say that. My husband may not get saved tonight, or next week, but I know he will come to know Jesus as his Savior.” Cissy picked up her daughter and returned to the service. Bill squeezed Cissy’s hand when the minister called people to the altar. Thinking he wanted to leave, she picked up her baby and waved to her daughters to follow. Bill motioned for them to sit down and stepped into the aisle. Instead of leaving, he went to the altar.
“My husband was a tough old dude, but God changed that. Today he is a church board member and can’t talk about the Lord without crying.”