The following is an excerpt from my book, How Do You Know He’s Real: God Unplugged. Amazing stories from her sisters are also featured in the book. In the books, famous recording artists, actors and athletes share personal stories of faith. If you know someone who questions the existence of God, or who needs a spiritual book, you should check it out. You can find more information about the book series and see a list of featured celebrities on my website, www.hesreal.com.
Alyssa Barlow: Not the Same Old Song and Dance
Since releasing their self-titled debut in February of 2004, BarlowGirl has been all the rage in contemporary Christian music. An instant success, the album produced a number one song, “Never Alone” and earned numerous GMA (Gospel Music Association) nominations, including “Best New Artist” and “Best Rock Song and Album.” Their latest album, How Can We Be Silent will hit stores at the end of July.
While they are thrilled about their early success, these rockers have a message to proclaim. Their anti-conformity platform, “don’t be conformed, be transformed!” has impacted young women all over the world.
Even though I’m a middle child, I have more of a firstborn personality. I’m a leader and very independent and headstrong. Since I was a very little girl, I’ve had my life all mapped out – I’ve known the goals I was going to reach, where I was going to go and how I as going to live my life.
I’ve been in the theater since I was just four years old. Ever since then, I’ve been in plays and on drama teams and hoped to be in musical theater one day. Of course, Broadway was my ultimate goal. Once I hit about 17, all I could think about was moving to ..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />New York and going to theater school. Those last few years of high school were miserable; I would go into my parent’s bedroom and tell them how I couldn’t wait to get out of the house, move away and make a name for myself on Broadway.
But my parents were like, “Alyssa, God has a calling on your life. There’s got to be a point where you finally slow down and ask Him what He has for you. You’ve got to choose to make God your own. You can’t just put a stamp on everything you do and say you’re doing it for God. It really has to be about what He wants for your life, not just what you want.”
When I was 17, something happened that changed my perspective forever. I was tap dancing down our hardwood staircase and fell down the last four stairs, turning my ankle under. We thought it was broken, and went from doctor to doctor to get more and more x-rays. Nobody could figure out what was wrong with me. I was in so much pain that I had to use crutches. And my foot turned ice cold and that feeling spread up my leg. The pain was so excruciating that I cried all the time.
We finally found a doctor who knew what was going on. I was diagnosed with a very rare disease called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). They said that my body had taken such a severe injury that my nerves had begun to fire constantly and wouldn’t stop. It was a chronic pain that would spread through out my entire body and ultimately take over. As I sat there in the doctor’s office, they told me that I would never walk again and would be confined to a wheelchair.
They wanted me back in the office the next day so they could clip the nerve on the back of my foot to stop it from firing. The wanted to cut the nerve completely, which would leave me with drop foot for the rest of my life. They would give me drugs for the pain, but there was nothing else they could do.
My parents said, “Absolutely not!” They took me home and said, “We’ve got to believe that God has a plan for your life, we’ve just got to find out what it is.” I was angry and bitter. If that’s who God was, I didn’t want Him. That day, I slammed the door to my heart.
At 17, I thought my life was over, and everything I’d worked for was done. I had to quit the two shows I was involved in and all the teaching jobs I did, and for months I just laid on my bed. I got very angry – for the first time in my life I experienced hardships and trials. Alyssa Barlow was no longer in control of her own life, and I got angrier and angrier.
It was a gradual process, but God started to speak to my heart. He said, “Alyssa, if you never do anything for the rest of your life, if you never dance again, if you never direct or walk up on stage and get applause from anybody else, I’ll love you no matter what. You need to know that even if you can never do anything for me and never accomplish anything in this life, you’re mine and that’s all that matters. Even if you are bedridden for the rest of your life and all you can do is sing to me from your bed, that’s great. There is nothing else I want you to care about in this entire world than just being mine. I love you completely. “
I started to understand that God didn’t expect anything from me except my heart. He still loved me even when I was in the ugliest place in my life. He showed me the greatest love and I began to open up my heart again. Little by little, He chipped away at my anger and frustration.
One day God told me, “Alright, it’s time to put down the crutches.” Now, there was no way I could walk through that pain! But with His encouragement, I put the crutches down, and after the third day I never picked them up again. Every morning, for the next year, I woke up and put my feet on the floor and felt that pain. But every morning, I also heard the Lord say, “Alyssa, you’ve got to walk through this valley, you’ve got to walk through this darkness… if you go past the pain, there’s healing on the other side.” Every day for a year I kept reclaiming it, “God said I was okay. He said I would be healed.” And eventually the pain was gone.
Looking back now, I can see that God kept me from pursuing Broadway because He had another plan. I’m such a stubborn person that it took a lot for God to get through to me. Not that God caused it, but I believe satan threw some pretty extreme circumstances my way and God allowed me to be tested. If you look at the path I was on, it took me being knocked flat on my back to realize it wasn’t about Alyssa Barlow – it was about God. He needed to knock out the pride and self-confidence I had built up since I was four to get through to my heart. It was difficult to learn to trust in Him, but I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.
There’s one thing I can tell you for certain: After what I’ve been through, I just can’t imagine going off and doing my own thing anymore. I’ve got to live my life with the Lord – there’s nothing else for me now.