News from the Tennessee Valley Religion

Zara Heflin of Decatur, who experienced an epiphany while attending a church play, began writing faith-inspired poetry after her conversion.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Zara Heflin of Decatur, who experienced an epiphany while attending a church play, began writing faith-inspired poetry after her conversion.

an epiphany

Spiritual 'ah-ha' moments change lives

By Melanie B. Smith 340-2468

Epiphany isn't an everyday Christian word like sin or salvation.

It comes from a Greek word for manifestation or appearance.

For many Christians, Epiphany refers to the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus and is marked by a feast day Jan. 6.

But the word "epiphany" has another popular meaning: a sudden flash of understanding or insight.

For instance, ABC News co-anchor Bob Woodruff said he experienced an epiphany when he realized he could be in the middle of big world events and get paid for it, he said.

Psychologists, authors and others use the concept of sudden insight in describing human behavior.

But keeping in mind the religious heritage of the word, what spiritual epiphanies have believers had that changed their lives?

A Web site,, asserts that Martin Luther had an epiphany, "The just shall live by faith." His new understanding turned him from a monk into a reformer.

For Zara Heflin of Decatur, a sudden insight came while attending a church play.

Heflin said she didn't grow up going to church, and when she attended with friends as a youth, she felt different, as if something was wrong with her.

But that day at the drama, the preacher said if people were ashamed of Christ on Earth, then he would be ashamed of them at the gates of heaven, Heflin said.

"I realized there was nothing I could do to be worthy, but he wanted me anyway," she said.

Heflin said she began writing poems after her conversion and has posted some at In "The Answer," she wrote:

Lord, though my eyes I thought were open,

Only now do I truly see

That all my life you were the answer,

You were just waiting for me.

Heflin said her mother-in-law's life-changing conversion was a great influence.

Janice Heflin of Athens said she was saved while at a church service with a sister-in-law. She said she also found deliverance from alcoholism and has been sober almost six years.

"It wasn't like a neon sign," she said of her experience. "You just know in your heart; you know it."

Vision as epiphany?

Not all spiritual epiphanies have to do with conversion.

The Rev. Antoyne Green, pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Athens, said God sent him insight about his future in what he describes as a vision.

Green said he saw in his mind's eye a pulpit and a congregation in Athens. He said people he knew and didn't know were in the crowd, and the worship was non-traditional.

At the time, he was associate minister at his home church, Sweet Home Missionary Baptist in Athens. His career, though, was as a reporter and anchor at WBRC in Birmingham.

One day in Long's Electronics in Birmingham after his "vision," a stranger came up and said he had a word from God.

"He said, 'That vision God's given you, shown you, now's the time.' I was speechless."

Green said other things the man said and subsequent events left no doubt God was leading. He and seven others started New Life in 2000. Green said the church has about 150 people and its own building.

Although he'd imitated a preacher as a 3-year-old and had spoken at many churches, Green said it took God's intervention for him to leave a good-paying career to minister full time and start a church.

"Call it strange, I don't know, or call it an epiphany. I believe it was a real revelation of the Holy Spirit," he said.

God 'breaking through'

Carol Ann Vaughn, director of the Christian Women's Leadership Center at Samford University in Birmingham, wrote in a devotional about Epiphany that God still breaks through in everyday life.

She said an epiphany might be like that of the travelers to Emmaus described in the gospel of John, who suddenly recognized Jesus in their midst. Or the experience might be like that of Paul, whom Scriptures say was knocked down in an encounter with Jesus.

"Or we may be like the Magi, actively seeking — and finding — answers to mysterious clues on a long journey, one step at a time," she said.

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