In this story from January 1982, the acclaimed actress tells of her first encounter with God, when a prayerful plea received a response more immediate than she could have expected.
When I was 18 years old, I had an experience that was to affect the rest of my life.
My parents were divorced. Starved for family love, I ran away at 16 to marry my childhood sweetheart. At 17, I had my precious son. Then the war came along, and soon my young husband was drafted and sent overseas. During his long absence, I lived with his very religious parents in Hollywood, the town where I was born.
One day an agent who had “discovered” me on my way to Beverly Hills High School called and invited me to meet producer David O. Selznick, who immediately signed me to a seven-year contract and placed me in a top featured role with Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck in Spellbound.
This was a real Hollywood-Cinderella story. I had had no training as an actress; I had never had to pound the New York or Hollywood pavements looking for a job; it was simply handed to me without my even asking for it. It should have been a happy and exciting time for me, but instead I was troubled by deep insecurities.
Here I was—estranged from my own family, my soldier-husband gone for over a year—a young, inexperienced, naive girl suddenly being groomed and flattered and written about and sometimes chased by older, sophisticated men. I was both frightened and terribly lonely. I had no friend to talk to, no counselor to advise me.
When the studio would arrange “dates” for me with other young actors to attend premieres for publicity, I was told never to reveal that I was married and certainly never to mention that I had a baby. Even my real name was changed!
All of these things were upsetting. To make matters worse, I became more and more estranged from my in-laws. Though they were helping me with my son, I was living a life they did not understand or really approve of.
More and more I sank into depression. Some of my thoughts were close to suicidal. One of the other young girls under contract had recently taken her own life, and I was despondent over that.
One night, after driving around for hours by myself, not wanting to go home because I felt nothing for these people with whom I was living (in fact, I felt no love for anything or anyone. including myself, except for my little baby), I was close to despair as I finally parked my jalopy on a hill overlooking the lights of Hollywood.
It was a warm night, and yet I was so cold my teeth were chattering; I felt as though I had ice water flowing through my veins. I didn’t want to go on living.
All through my childhood my mother had dragged me to church, and thank the Lord she did, because now, out of sheer desperation, I cried out from the depths of my soul: “I’ve always been told there’s a God—so if You are real, God, then hear me now because I don’t want to live.”
I don’t know how long I sat there staring out over the dark outlines of barren hills, tears streaming down my face, begging God to hear me, when suddenly I felt what seemed to be the firm pressure of a hand placed upon my head.
From that pressure, heat came surging through my body, melting the ice in my veins, and with it came a tremendous love that was so full and powerful that I couldn’t wait to start my car and share that love with someone. I found myself racing home to that little house and awakening my in-laws just to tell them I loved them.
“I love you, I love you,” I repeated over and over, and startled as they were, they were quick to say, “We love you too.” Then I hugged my little son with this new-found love and slept peacefully for the first time in months.
How privileged I was to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit, to have been “touched” by God in direct answer to my prayerful plea! I shall never forget it. Nothing can ever take that experience from me; it has changed my life, knowing that He does hear us and all we need to do is ask and we will receive His blessings.
We are not alone: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in...” (Revelation 3:20)
He has come into my heart to stay forever, and I hope that telling this story will help others to seek His help. Never forget: He is our best friend—and “with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
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