A Future and a Hope: How God Used My Tennis Partner to Get My Attention

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Hi, my name is Barbara and I’m an alcoholic. Actually that’s not true anymore. In Jeremiah 29:11, God says, For I know the thoughts I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. And that’s exactly what God has done for me.

As a child I had “things” put on me, ingrained in me that no child deserves. They form your thinking, feelings, and your very existence in a negative way through childhood and into adulthood. You and your life become something God never intended. You can go through your whole life carrying, believing, and living those lies.

My mother died when she was 70 and as I approached 70, I thought I probably would too. Well, I made it to 70 and beyond. And being in my 70’s made me realize that I’ve lived a lot of life in a lot of places with a lot of people and that I’ve met and I’ve experienced all kinds of trials and triumphs. Whether it was some sort of drama or adult fear: marriage, divorce, parenting, unemployment, illness, or moving from one location to another. Yet I can’t think of one time when I turned to God that He wasn’t there, loving, faithful, my constant Rock. Always guiding even when I drifted, He’s been there.

I was in my 20’s the first time I married; I entered a very difficult and troubled marriage. I turned to alcohol as a solution and means of escape – especially after the birth of my son which created additional responsibilities and stress.

Up until my 30’s, I didn’t know or think much about Jesus or God but considered myself a good person and a Christian because I went to church. I was in denial about my drinking until my son was around 4½. I was giving him a bath, happened to be sober, noticed he had some bruises, and asked him what happened. He looked at me and innocently said, “you did this mommy.” I had no idea how or why or when this happened. But it was then that I came face-to-face with myself and knew I had a problem. Yet, I was too proud for AA or any other help. I convinced myself that I’m a good person, I go to church, and I’m not that bad.

Sometime after that a neighbor asked if I wanted to take tennis lessons with her. I saw this as a possible solution to my drinking problem so I said yes. After a few lessons, she dropped out but I continued. That’s when I met Kathy who eventually became my tennis partner. We had several things in common: we lived in the same neighborhood, she had two small boys, and we were both stay-at-home moms. When playing tennis with her, my speech was unfiltered, crude. I didn’t care and yet she never said anything. She was always willing to meet to play tennis and over time I found her presence to be comforting. I looked forward to being with her and saw her as a strong, confident woman, definitely nothing like myself.

tennis racket and ball

This particular morning that we met for tennis, she was very upset and started crying. I asked what was wrong; and she shared a personal ongoing situation at home that had come to a head that morning. But, Kathy told me she knew that as a Christ follower, a committed Christian, God was with her and would help her. As I continued to listen I felt comfortable enough to share with her my heart and struggle with alcohol, thinking I’m a Christian and God will help me. But I realized for me “Christian” was just a word and, unless there was something more to it, it was only just a word. I wasn’t a Christ follower, knowing nothing about God the way she did. She had something I didn’t. She told me I need to talk to God and tell Him what I told her. Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow … Isaiah 1:18.

When I got home that morning (June 28, 1978), I fell to my knees in tears and poured my heart and guts out to God. I cried out, “I don’t understand or know what Kathy has, but I want it.” Instantly, God answered my prayer and a heaviness was lifted from me and for the first time in my life I felt as if I could really breathe! Then, I shortly discovered that my need for alcohol was completely gone. Excited, I called Kathy and told her what had happened. She said I should get a Bible and come to church with her. I bought a Bible for $3.95 – after all, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money or get too involved with something I knew nothing about.

I started attending a local church and learning about what it meant to be a Christ follower and a committed Christian. As I grew in my understanding of Scripture, I also learned that I needed to be baptized in obedience to Christ, if I was going to follow Him. Since that day in 1978, God has most graciously allowed me to serve Him in various ways, hospitality, counseling, and teaching ladies about the Bible – even make a “joyful noise” through singing.

I have read, reread, and studied the Bible to learn about who and what I knew nothing about. And my prayer is that as long as God gives me breath in my 70’s or beyond, that through the power of the Holy Spirit, I never stop loving, learning about, and serving Him because of what Christ has done for me.

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:12-13

Barbara Darnall-Hottle is a member of Cedar Crest Bible Fellowship Church, Allentown, PA.

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