How God Woke Me Up
My Conversion as a Theology-Challenged Third Grader
by Greg Wright
I give God 100% credit for my salvation. True, I had to believe, but I am absolutely certain that I never would have come to God on my own. God had to do something, first, and I will always be grateful that he took the initiative to wake me up.
I was only in the third grade. In all honesty, I'm not even sure that I can remember how third graders think or what kinds of things dominated my mind at that time. A plain and uncoordinated boy, when I couldn't get praise from other kids, I looked for it from adults. Thankfully, although I was terrible in sports and popularity skills, I made good grades, had reasonably good manners, and did well in music. The other kids didn't care much about that, but the adults heaped on the praise. The situation was similar with church. I'm not sure why I liked going to church, since it meant missing cartoons and cowboy shows, except that I got a lot of affirmation from adults.
In order to please adults, I also tried to be very obedient. In some cases, I was excessive, like when the preacher said to raise your hand if you wanted to be prayed for. I only comprehended the "raise your hand" part of that, and every Sunday, during the invitation, my hand went up. I imagine that this minister prayed for me every Sunday.
Eventually, I began to notice people going down the aisle when the invitation was given. But, the pivotal moment may have been the time my regular Sunday School teacher was out and we had a substitute. He was a young guy, and although I don't remember much of what he said, he used the word, sin, over and over again. I had never heard that word used so much in one lesson, and he said the word with such a thick, small town, southern accent, that I was very amused and laughed about it, later.
But, something happened in the weeks that followed. It had never occurred to me that I might be on my way to Hell, but all of a sudden I couldn't sleep at night. Every night, I would cry myself to sleep, afraid that I might die and go to hell. When Sunday came, I started to walk down the aisle, but hesitated for some reason. Then, my mother put her hand on my shoulder. It was enough reassurance to get me moving again, and I made it all the way down to the front.
Then, I sat down with someone I didn't know and watched them turn to sections in their Bible that were underlined in red. I think they read the verses, but it was all such a blur. The verses seemed to flash by at light speed. After that, everyone came forward to shake hands with the new Christian. I distinctly remember my fear leaving and me being very, very happy.
For awhile, I thought that my walking down the aisle was part of God's process in saving me. What I didn't realize was that God had already started his work when he first taught my heart to fear him. John Newton's words come to mind.My theology was very muddled. I didn't even know what theology was. But there was one thing I never questioned, whether Jesus was to be obeyed. About a year later, I watched a film where Christians in a foreign country were pursued by people who tried to kill them. As they climbed a fence, one of them was shot, dead. This very much impressed me, and I faced, for the first time the prospect that I might someday have to die for my faith. I remember thinking, "Christianity is serious business."
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
A little later, I learned more about what is supposed to happen when a person becomes a Christian. I was informed that every man has displeased God by sinning, and that no one has any hope of going to heaven except through faith in Jesus Christ. I learned that we are supposed to ask God to forgive us, that we are supposed to repent and turn away from our sins, and that we are supposed to put all our trust in Jesus Christ as our only hope for a home in heaven. This very much frightened me, since I had been trusting, somewhat, in the act of walking down the aisle.
This new awareness of mistakes in my thinking made me doubt the eternal validity of what I did when I was in the third grade. So, I prayed again, just to be sure of my salvation:Dear LordI prayed this prayer many times, everytime I got a little scared. Sometimes I would read the back of a tract and change my prayer to correspond with it. Indeed, I was concerned that if I didn't pray my prayer just right, I wouldn't make it to heaven.
I confess that I am a sinner
Who deserves to go to Hell.
Please forgive me all my sins.
I place all my trust in Jesus Christ
As my only hope for a home in heaven.
Only later did I learn that it wasn't what I did that mattered, it was what God had already done inside of me.
When I turned to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith, it was the result of God waking me up and changing my heart. And, when I continued in my faith, it was because of the work God was doing inside of me.
My testimony doesn't fit too well with many evangelism programs. But it does give an example of the fact that salvation is God's work. God can wake up anyone, even a fuzzy headed little third grader who doesn't know the difference between the Romans Road and his own driveway.
Praise be to our Lord Jesus Chist who, when he saw the children, said,
"Let the children come to me, for of such is the Kingdom of God."
Back to Index