I was 19 years old when I heard the knock on the door. My little sister and I were waiting for my father to get home from Stockton, where we grew up. When I answered the door, I was greeted by the Fresno chaplain, asking if he could come in and talk to us.
The chaplain came in and told us that my father had died.
I told him he had the wrong house. I had spoken to him just hours, maybe even moments, before, as we were expecting him home any minute. He explained that as my father was driving home from Stockton, he pulled over on the freeway and passed away of a heart attack.
We were shocked. My father’s death was so unexpected, so sudden and it flipped our entire world upside down. In an instant, it had all changed. “Living for the moment” seemed meaningless once death knocked on our door and left us face to face with the question of eternity.
Life after death mattered to me in a very real way, and every moment seemed so urgent. This tragedy led me to so many questions about God, life, death, and the meaning of it all . . .
Who is God? Who is in control of our time on earth? What happens after you die? Why are people always talking to me about Jesus? Who was Jesus? And why do people tell me he died for me? What does his death have to do with me?
I tried to find the answers to these questions on my own, but my lifestyle of partying and binge drinking didn’t exactly lead me to the path of righteousness and truth. The year following my father’s death I was in a deep battle with my soul wanting to know and live for God and my flesh wanting to get drunk and live for my own pleasure. It was then that I was reunited with my old high school boyfriend unexpectedly. We drove up next to each other on the road; surprised to see each other we exchanged numbers, and vowed to catch up. We went to lunch a few weeks later, where he shared his sorrow for my dad’s death and began to share some of the things that had happened in his life the past few years.
Little did I know, he had placed his faith in Christ and was beginning to share Jesus with me. I noticed such a change in him and began asking all of my questions about God, life, death, and the Cross. He was patient with me, pointed me to Jesus, and helped me understand His truth. I started to see my sin and understand my need for a Savior. It was then that I started attending The Well and began to grow in my love and understanding for God. I turned from my old life, embraced God’s grace and forgiveness and started pursuing Christ wholeheartedly.
I have often said, “Losing my earthly father led me to our Heavenly Father”. My father’s death helped me to see the way to eternal life. God met me in my brokenness, my questioning, my grief, and my pain.
“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters . . . He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” (Psalm 18:16, 18 NIV)
For this reason, I am not afraid to meet people in their pain, skepticism, or sin, because I know the Living God meets us in these places. He is often most near in our honest, raw, real moments of tragedy, struggle, and pain.
It is in Christ Alone that we find who we are and why we live. Understanding the Cross—Jesus dying so that we might live, changed me forever. Once you “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8) nothing else compares or satisfies. This journey with Jesus started over 13 years ago and now I live to tell others about His redemptive grace and abounding love.
I am a huge fan of sharing stories, true life changing testimonies of God calling us from darkness to light. I know those stories can change lives. I know His love can change lives. I’m a living example of a girl who went from the bars to the pews, from doubt to faith, from pain to healing. I want to spend the rest of my life testifying of His life changing grace and offering a safe place for others to come and wrestle with their faith. You can find some of those stories and what I’m learning at melissadanisi.com. I’m hoping that sharing some of these stories here at Self-Talk the Gospel will help others find freedom in the Gospel and experience the life-changing love of Christ.