Why? `Because God told me to'

Faith: Christine Lincoln, 34, finds a way again, receiving a hard-earned degree and the Sophie Kerr Prize for writing.

Class of 2000

Portraits Of Inspiration

May 22, 2000|By Lisa Pollak | Lisa Pollak,SUN STAFF

She did not lose faith. There were days when she cried out to God in anger and pain, because an eviction notice had arrived, or the phone had been turned off, or she'd walked miles in the cold and rain, carrying groceries and schoolbooks, cars whizzing by, and no one offering a ride. But she did not lose faith.

How could she think of how far she had come and not believe in a power greater than herself? From drug addict to straight-A college student. From the brink of death to a creator of life: not just Takii, her miracle baby, conceived despite the doctor's predictions, born without breath, the cord wrapped around his neck, but also Ebbie, Junie, Cinny and all the rest of the characters whose struggles and yearnings filled the pages of her fiction.

And so when things got tough, when the food stamps ran out, when eviction seemed inevitable, when the strain of raising a child alone while going to Washington College was almost too much to take, Christine Lincoln did the only thing she knew to do. She waged spiritual warfare. She prayed. She meditated. She spoke to God, and he spoke back.

"I have been criticized, by people who maybe don't have that level of relationship with God, or don't understand," she said recently. "Because it sounds crazy. Who's going to go someplace with no money, no place to live, and then say, `Well, I'm going because God told me to go.'"

But would it sound crazy if you could examine each step in your painful journey and see so clearly how God has always made a way? The check that came just in time. The unexpected reduction in the rent. The glimpse of a smile on her son's face when she was on the verge of giving up. Angels in her path, time and time again.

"Every time things would start getting really bad financially, my family would say `Come home,' and I'd be saying, `Well, if I can just make it through, I know that God is going to bless me mightily.' And he would, every time."

Maybe some people would have said Lincoln was crazy, listening to her two weeks ago, as she sat at her desk at the college's Center for the Study of Black Culture, which she'd nurtured from dream to reality in her three years as a student. At 34, she was about to graduate from Washington College with a degree in English. She had no car, no phone and was on welfare. And yet, she was certain that she and 6-year-old Takii were moving in the fall from Chestertown to South Africa, where she would pursue a master's degree and doctorate in African literature and teach creative writing - as a volunteer - to teen-age victims of violence.

Asked how she was going to finance these plans, she said:

I don't know how. I have no idea where the money's coming from. But I know that when I go, I will not have to work. And I will not have a financial worry. God has promised me that. I don't know how he's going to come up with this money, but I know that he will.

She laughed, a confident, joyful laugh.

And he has until October.

Yesterday, on the day she graduated from Washington College, first in her class with a 4.0 average, Lincoln learned she had won the Sophie Kerr Prize, given annually to the senior who demonstrates the greatest "ability and promise for future fulfillment in the field of literary endeavor."

The prize was $54,266.

Five months early, a mighty blessing indeed.

How could it not be God? Shouldn't she already be dead? If not from drug addiction, or the dangers of the streets, then from the pills she took in an attempt to end her life a decade ago.

But she lived, and ended up in a rehabilitation center in Texas, where a staff member handed her a sheaf of papers, with the instruction: "Read this every night for 30 days."

It was called a letter from God: ... Let me share with you again, the secret you heard at your birth and forgot. You are my greatest miracle. You are the greatest miracle in the world. Those were the first words you ever heard, then you cried. They all cry.

She fell to the floor, sobbing, knowing her life had been saved.

How could it not have been for a purpose? From that day on she would go places and accomplish things she could never have imagined. First she gave birth to Takii, despite having been told that she couldn't get pregnant. He was the son she'd always wanted and an inspiration to live a better life, but his health problems and medical expenses forced her, broke, to move to her mother's house in Baltimore.

"It was a real traumatic time for me," she says. "I didn't know how to make sense of it all. So I started to write."

And she started to know God. He spoke to her, woke her at night, directed her to pages of Scripture, showed her how to meditate and pray for hours at a time. And write. That was part of it. She would write the lessons she was learning, about the Bible and about herself. On the pages of her notebooks her past was revealed and validated and transformed.

Writing as healing

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