My name is Antoinette Tuff, and five months ago, on August 20, my life changed forever.
That was the day an armed intruder broke into the McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., where I worked as a bookkeeper, and threatened to start killing people. At the time there were hundreds of children in the school, and the gunman had enough ammunition to kill many of them. The first place he went to was the school's front office, where I happened to be filling in for the receptionist. For the next hour, the gunman and I were alone in that office. For much of that time, I was afraid I was going to die.
By the sheer grace of God, no one was hurt that day -- not the children or teachers, not the gunman, and not me. With God's help, I was able to talk the shooter into putting down his weapon and letting police come in and arrest him. Afterwards, people started calling me a hero for what I had done. That's nice and all, but the truth is I am not a hero. I'm just a regular person. To my son Derrick, for instance, I'm still just "Mom." I don't think of myself as a hero.
But I do think of myself as God's servant, and I was able to do what I did on August 20th because God prepared me for my purpose.
That is why I am writing this post -- because I think what happened in that school can teach us all something about how to discover our true purpose in life. I honestly believe the trials and tribulations of my life were God's way of preparing me for that one hour when He needed me to talk down the gunman. Exactly how God did that is the story I tell in my book, Prepared for a Purpose, which was released on Jan. 20. I cannot believe I even got the opportunity to write a book, but once I did I knew just what story I wanted to tell -- not only the story of what happened at McNair, but also everything that came before it.
As you will see, the difficult moments in my life prepared me to deal with the gunman. In the school that day, I could tell he felt boxed in by his life, and believed he had no choice but to end it. I understood how he felt, because, not all that long ago, I felt that way, too.
You see, God is always preparing us for a purpose, and coping with life's setbacks is easier when we accept that God has a plan for us -- even if we do not always understand that plan.
And now I want to continue to share this message of hope and faith. I want this to be a conversation among people who are searching for answers in their lives, just as I was for so many years. I want it to be a meeting place for people who want to serve God but aren't sure how to do it. I invite everyone who struggles with their faith, and with life's many challenges, to join in this discussion about how God prepares us all for a purpose.
I will share a lot of details about my life, and I hope you will find my story relatable to your own. Even though so much has changed for me since August 20 (I mean, I even got to shake hands with President Obama!), I believe that everything I went through, and continue to go through, is not that different from what most people go through.
At the moment, my life is about change -- about losing and gaining relationships, and moving from the past to the future. The opportunities I've been given are allowing me to make a major move in my life, spiritually and emotionally, and while there are times I am scared to death by all that change, I know God is with me every step of the way.
"There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under the heavens," it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1-4. "A time to tear down and a time to build. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance."
Change can be hard and painful, Lord knows. The changes in my life before August 20 were so hard and painful they brought me to my very knees. But change can be beautiful, especially when it is God who is changing our lives. That is what God did with me on August 20. He changed everything. He needed me to do something, and because of the life I lived, I was ready when He asked. I don't know what He will ask me to do next, but I do know I will be ready when He does.
The question is -- will you?
I hope you will join me on this journey. I hope you understand that, just because I was given the chance to tell my story, doesn't make me someone special. The message I hope to convey is that we are all special -- we are all God's soldiers, waiting for our next assignment. And the beauty of God's hand at work is that He will take the worst things in our lives -- the hardest times, the deepest falls, the moments when we feel most alone -- and turn them into strength and faith and love, so that we may serve Him better. God prepares us for our purpose.
Thank you and God bless you.