• Shari Gabourel

How I Ended Up Like This

In chapter one of Encouragement from a Sometimes Anxious and Sometimes Believing Christ-Follower (EFASA&SBCF), I share a little about who I am. But that was more of a snap shot.

Here’s a bit more about yours truly and perhaps it may help you understand how I turned out the way I did…and you’ll pray for me.

I was born in Vallejo, California. It’s a small city where San Francisco sits to its north and Napa Valley is to its south. I was raised and co-raised by a young, single mother and her still, very youthful single mom. I was an only child from my mother’s womb, but thanks to my absentee father, I had more than a few half-siblings. Like so many others, my upbringing was marked by a number of good times; however, it was also marred by events that were not so good. More on that in another post.

As an only kid, I became an avid reader. It was my favorite go-to. The fictional stories I read seemed to welcome me into another time and place, where I was no longer alone, but having fun with virtual characters who imaginably related to my irrational adolescence. It was as if books became my closest friends.

Another favorite of mine was going to church. Though my mom and grandmother (who I lovingly call Nonnie) worked earnestly throughout the week, they were pretty consistent in their church attendance on Sundays.

We attended a small and lively Baptist church that had all the denominational distinctions of an African-American church. The services were lengthy; the singing was deafening; the sermons were fiery, and the congregation was theatrical. It was in that environment where I was introduced to Jesus Christ and offered the opportunity to be in a devoted relationship with Him.

So at the curious age of 12, I repeated a variation of the Sinner’s Prayer and within seconds I had become a Christian. It was that simple…or so I thought.

When I was 13, I accepted the post-sermon invitation to become baptized. Within the same month, I along with other nervous teens was baptized in the church’s baptistery. Because I wasn’t a swimmer, I was terrified of the possibility I might drown in front of all the cheering onlookers singing off key, “Take me to the water.”

There I was standing next to the pastor with my arms criss-crossed against my chest as he said, “I now baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

And swish…it was over. I hadn’t perished. I stood dripping with water and crying like a baby, thrilled to be well on my way to following in the footsteps of Jesus.

Sometime later, one of the associate pastors and his wife presented me with a gift. It was a yellow, Double-Day dictionary that was missing its hard front cover. I wasn’t sure why they gave me a dictionary, of all things, but I acknowledged their gift with a thank you. I would soon comb through the dictionary like it was a Judy Blume novel.

I started to love looking up words and learning their meanings. I enjoyed scrolling down, page after page, and reading lists of words from the English language, while learning its pronunciation, its origin, and its usage. I found it fascinating. Consequently, my vocabulary began to expand and I was wanting to write stories so I could use the new words I had learned. All because of a silly, old dictionary.

As my love of reading never waned and my relationship with Christ evolved, I would spend an undocumented amount of hours reading the Bible. To aid in my understanding of Scripture, I used certain Bible translations, concordances, and dictionaries to interpret the text. Using colored pens and highlighters, I’d circle certain words and highlight various passages that stood out to me. I’d capture my times of studying in notebooks and journals. For whatever reason, studying the word of God became my most treasured thing to do.

Fast forward two decades later. By this time, I had f-i-n-a-l-l-y graduated from college, relocated to Los Angeles, was working in Public Safety, and I was still bearing my surname. And with no viable bachelors in sight, I figured I’d pursue a graduate degree in Quality Assurance.

Having worked in state government for several years up to this point, I had observed a number of inefficient practices throughout various programs. I thought if there was a more prudent way to do things, why not do it? If I immersed myself in Six Sigma, process improvement, and customer satisfaction, perhaps I could make an impact…somewhere, somehow.

Then a dear friend from Sacramento came to visit me. Years prior, she and I attended the same church and were actively involved in the worship and music ministry. Again, I’ll cover that in a later post.

As I was sharing my academic plans, she looked at me and said, “Why are you doing this? You already know about quality assurance.”

While I believed her words were somewhat true, I knew deep down I wanted to obtain a master’s degree. Yet, two of the reasons I wanted it was not admirable. If I were to be honest, I wanted the degree to wield it as an impressive talking point. I wasn’t terribly interested in going back to school for 18 months or so, but if that’s what it took, then so be it. The other reason I wanted the degree was to augment my future earnings. Again, not the best reasons to pursue higher education.

I also believed obtaining such a degree would empower me to help businesses perform optimally. Before an organization can think about improving productivity, they will need to focus on their most valuable resource—the human resource. By nurturing individuals through proper training and development, you can unleash the resident giftings within them. Such care and attention to people will undoubtedly assist an organization in achieving its goals. And I wanted to help make that happen.

As we continued chatting, I shared the other wild notion I had of attending Bible College. I asserted my desire was purely personal as I longed to improve who I was as a person and perhaps an education in theology could help.

My friend patiently listened and retorted, “You know what you should do and going after a degree in quality assurance is not it.

Subsequently, I cancelled my enrollment with the California State University and in the winter of 2003, I enrolled at The King’s College and Seminary, now known as The King’s University. The next three years would certainly change my life.

During the summer of 2003 and 2004, I had the extraordinary privilege to study abroad at the historic Oxford University. Learning about Christendom and its abundant heritage at one of the oldest English-speaking universities in the world was truly incredible!

The entire Seminary journey was life-changing. After three intense years of study, I finally earned a Graduate Certificate in Christian Ministries.

If Seminary taught me anything, it was my pre-understanding of God was not as accurate as I once believed. I would soon realize the God of the universe was not a denomination confined to constitutions or bylaws. He was and is SO MUCH MORE than my narrow and short-sighted perspective.

He is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

I will no doubt spend the rest of my days endeavoring to learn, understand, and live out the intentions the Lord has for my life. Thankfully, I can use the numerous wordbooks, thesauruses, and concordances I’ve acquired over the years to support my studying the word of God, my writing, and my gradual transformation.

One of the purposes I’ve been clear about for some time (though I struggle with it), is to encouragingly promote another’s Christian growth using biblical insight.

As the Lord brings about a spiritual disturbance within me—prodding me from a halfhearted attitude while strengthening me to be the best “me” possible, I plan to nudge you as well.

Hmmm…perhaps certain Quality Assurance attributes can be used after all—to inspire God’s people to become their best.

Here’s hoping you return for the next edition of encouragement,


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