What’s your story? I’m willing to be made willing!

Before 1984, I was a carnal Christian. I had been a believer since I was 12, but I didn’t want to get involved in people’s messes because it was hard. I remember the moment when God began to change me, and it prepared me for so many things in the days to come. 

A lot happened that year. I had begun a speaking ministry and was teaching First Place [a Christian fitness and discipleship program] at Houston’s First. I was on church staff at the time, but nobody knew what our family was going through. My husband, Johnny, had to declare bankruptcy in his forklift business earlier in 1984 after struggling to keep it open for years. The economy was tough and Texas was hit hard. It was a very tough time in which God brought me to the end of myself. 

December of that year, our pastor, John Bisagno, preached a sermon on the will, and I remember exactly where I was sitting in the church as clearly as I remember the day I accepted Jesus. He said, “ … If you are not willing for Him to do the work that needs to be done [in your life], you can pray this prayer today: ‘Lord, I’m not willing, but I’m willing to be made willing.’”

I prayed that prayer that morning and said, “Lord, that’s where I am. I’m not willing, but I’m willing to be made willing. Please don’t let it hurt too bad.” As a kid, I knew if God got every part of you, He would send you to China or Africa, because I’d heard so many missionaries speak. As an adult, you learned to have control of your life, and God had totally stripped all control from me. I was ready to hear that message that morning, and He literally changed everything about me from the inside out. I wouldn’t have been able to go through the different traumas we went through if He had not done that. 

(LEFT) Lewis was surrounded by her family when she retired. (RIGHT) Lewis, pictured third from right, is seen with a women’s group in Maryland. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

“When God got ahold of me and got me totally for Him, He changed up all my lists of things [I thought] I wouldn’t be able to do for Him.”

But the traumas did come. Johnny was diagnosed with stage four cancer in 1997 and lived almost 17 years after that. Those years were such a blessing. Our daughter, Shari, was hit and killed by a drunk teenager in 2001. God has given me grace to pray often for the salvation of the woman who hit her. We also lost our permanent home—along with everything we owned—to Hurricane Ike in 2008. So, people come to me who are suffering from things like I’ve been through, and God has been faithful all the way. He does not take it lightly when His children suffer, so everything I’ve gone through has prepared me not only to teach Bible study, but to share with the women God brings my way. I absolutely love everything I do. I love my life.

When God got ahold of me and got me totally for Him, He changed up all my lists of things [I thought] I wouldn’t be able to do for Him. Those are the very things He has me doing, and I love it. I love whatever He gives me to do. Now I consider mentoring the women He sends my way a primary calling. I never trashcan anybody. I always see results. Sometimes it takes years, but it is so worth investing our lives in the lives of other people. It’s just amazing; you seem to know when He sends you somebody.

Through the events of my life and through the people He’s sent to me, God has given the outlines for 15 of the 17 books I’ve written. I never ever felt worthy, but I can tell you—if I had not made that decision that morning in December of 1984, I would’ve never directed First Place for 30 years. I would’ve never written the first book. God has plenty of people He can call, but that day He spoke to my heart, and I said, “As scared as I am, I want you to do it.”

So, what’s my story? I recently spoke to a group of women after a kind introduction that told a little about my life. When
I stood up, I told them that my word for 2024 is “new.” I’m 82 this year and told them, “I am so excited that everything is going to be ‘new at 82.’” My verse for the year is Isaiah 40:31: “Those who trust in the Lord will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not faint.” 

What's your story?

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(as told to Gary Ledbetter)
Carole Lewis
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