“Everything you think you see in me, everything I’ve accomplished, everything you think I have—and I have a few things. Everything that I have is by the grace of God. Understand that. It’s a gift.”
Those are the words of Denzel Washington at the Dillard University commencement speech in 2015.
While they may seem like a warm and fuzzy Christian cliché from someone who clearly has it made, don’t let his current success fool you.
Allow me to take you back four decades, to a small salon where Denzel Washington’s present failure met with God’s future promise in a way that he never could have imagined…
It was March 27, 1975.
The Oscar-winning actor we know today as the star of everything from Remember the Titans to Training Day was sitting in his mother’s beauty shop after just flunking out of college.
A dropout with no projected plans for the future, Denzel Washington had no clue what he was going to do with his life.
That’s when he caught the reflection of a woman who was staring straight at him every time he looked in the mirror. She clearly had something to say, but Denzel didn’t know just how profound her words would be—words that would become the greatest gift from God he’d ever receive.
The actor recounts the sequence of events that followed like it was yesterday in an Access Hollywood interview:
It was March 27, 1975. I started acting four months later. She said,
“You know young man, you are going to travel the world and speak or preach to millions of people…
She said that, and then she wrote “prophecy.” She couldn’t even spell it well. Then my mother wrote “preacher.” And then I wrote my name—and it was on a blue envelope; I still have it. So when she left, I said to my mother, “Who was that lady?” She said, “Well, she’s one of the oldest church members in town, and she’s known to have the gift of prophecy.”
This was supposed to be my life. She actually called it before… It’s nothing I did. It’s by the grace of God.
Sitting there in shock after just flunking out of school, the young Denzel had a hard time soaking up what he was hearing, but lo and behold, he is now living in the calling that seemed beyond his wildest dreams over 40 years ago.
“I knew I had a purpose,” he added of the unexpected encounter.
It was through his start as an actor that he’s been given the platform to reach millions of people with his message of hope and God’s greatness.
On T.D. Jakes’ talk show, Denzel elaborated on his life mission after charging listeners with two powerful questions:
“Who have you lifted up? Who have you made better? Today. That’s what I’m about… I’m in the service business. I’m here to serve God. I’m here to serve my family.”
Watch as Denzel tells the story of the bold stranger who predicted his journey to greatness, that he’s now grateful to be living in today.