This Is A Story Of Grace, Part 3

If you missed the first part of the story, click here to read it now.

Yes! Jesus Loves Me
Yes! Jesus Loves Me

Yes! Jesus Loves Me
For the Bible tells me so

I slipped into the sanctuary as quietly as I could and found a seat in the back away from everyone else. It was an enormous room—mostly full. Pews were positioned in a horseshoe shape around a stage in which young children were performing a story from the Bible.

What was I doing there? I hadn’t been in a church on Sunday in years, not even for Easter.

Two weeks earlier, I had been sleeping in the back seat of my friend’s car on the way to Sandestin Resort. Once we got there, I quickly showered, because I was running late to the first service.

The guy leading the service was fun. He brought his guitar, and we were singing fun songs from the 50s and 60s.

I specifically remember singing a goofy rendition of “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog” and cracking up.

There were about 20 college-aged singles on the trip.

Then the guy preached. Honestly, I have no memory of what he preached on. But, I don’t remember being turned off. We laughed a lot. Then, dinner was served to us in a meeting room, and the guy came over and sat down next to me.

For whatever reason, we started talking about the environment.

If you don’t remember, the environment was a big deal to me. I was engulfed in the radical thinking of negative population growth and how man was destroying the Earth. I was a card carrying member of the Sierra Club. This guy’s response to all of this was that man has been given stewardship over the Earth from the very beginning, and we should care for it. However, we are not in control. God is. He noted that he didn’t buy into the man-made global warming argument, but we should not pollute, fill the air with smog, or kill off all the animals. When he told me this, I remember respecting him for this position. And, this conversation probably softened me a lot to his preaching.

After dinner, we went on a boat ride in the ocean and walked the white sandy beach of the Gulf Coast. I remember spending almost the entire time on the beach and boat ride talking to Leslie.

After this, I started to manipulate circumstances to get near her. I also remember that people kept coming up to me and asking me theological questions. It was like they had been primed to talk with me about things regarding the Bible. I found out later that I was commonly known as “the reprobate friend” because of the way my friend had asked them all to pray for me. I laugh about this now!

Conversations on Biblical things was constant. I listened for each of the services and people kept hitting me with theological questions. But, after more than a decade of exposure to so much of Biblical teaching and secular counter arguments, I was well prepared to resist all of this. I had an answer for everything.

To hear Leslie describe this time in Destin, she would say that she could tell that the Lord was working on me.

Then we drove home, but this time, Leslie and I were in the front seat and my friend was sleeping in the back. We talked the entire trip home.

When home—I went back to my routine of school and going out drinking every night. I didn’t think of the Lord one time until Sunday a week later.

I remember studying for class on Sunday afternoon. I had been living with my grandparents for about 4 years by this point, and my grandmother walked into the office downstairs in the basement I was working in.

She was carrying a brown manila envelope. She handed it to me, saying, “Here you go, I’m sorry, but I forgot to give this to you yesterday!”

I grabbed it with excitement. I don’t know about you but receiving physical mail that isn’t junk always gets me excited—even today! I looked at the return address and found it was from Leslie. Then I really ripped into it!
Several weeks before, when I first met Leslie at that church outing, she had everyone fill out entry forms for a new giveaway that had been her brain-child. She was the promotions director at the Gwinnett Daily Post, and Leslie had come up with the idea to create a Fall Festival called Newsfest and give away a Jeep. We were her first entries to win the car.

Now, it’s important to remember that this was back in 1997 before internet usage was widespread. Therefore, every entry she received for this giveaway was sitting in an enormous box under her desk and there was thousands.

When she decided to write me this letter, she went back to that box to find my address. The way she tells the story is that she was sitting at her desk with that letter and other material meant for me, and she was trying to think of a way to get the package to me. She was quite nervous about sending me the letter and was considering just trashing it when she remembered that my address was on an entry-form sitting in the box under her desk.

The big problem was that there were thousands of entries which meant that potentially she could be looking for hours to find the specific one that had my name and address.

Sifting through thousands of entries for hours seemed like too great an obstacle, so she thought she was off the hook. But, then she decided to pray.

Her prayer went something like this,
“Lord, you know that I’m scared to even send this letter, and I need his address to get this letter to him. I am praying that if you want this letter to get to David that his address will be the first one I find in this box, because it would be wrong to spend so many work hours searching for it.”

Then she kept her eyes closed and reached into the box; felt around; and pulled out an entry. When she opened her eyes, the entry was mine.

How crazy is that?!

So, she wrote my address on the big envelope, stamped it, and put it in the mail. Then she just waited. It was two or three weeks before she heard anything from me.

So, there I was, sitting there in my grandparents’ basement holding this letter, along with many copies and highlighted sections of Leslie’s favorite books. The collection of material was thick.

I still have this packet from Leslie, and I read the whole thing right when I got it. The part that stood out to me the most was in the letter that Leslie wrote.

It said basically,
“David, the only way to come to God is through faith. You cannot merely reason your way there.”

When I read this, I remember it hit me like a ton of bricks!! My first thought was, I have to go to church. I looked at my watch, and it was about 5:45 pm which meant evening church was starting soon. I remember rushing around to get ready and then I got in my car and sat there for a second. “Where do I go?”

None of my family were going to church that night, so I thought of the PCA church down the road that was the same ilk as the church I went to Destin with.

I drove into the parking lot. It was empty. They didn’t have Sunday night service.

Then I went to my grandparents’ church. I remember walking in and thinking that something didn’t feel right. I was late, but I walked in anyway and found that it was a Jews for Jesus service. Neither the music nor anything else seemed familiar, and I was incredibly uncomfortable. So, I got up and left at the first prayer.

Then I thought of my mom’s church—Rehoboth Baptist. So I drove there. Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t give up on church that evening.

So, I snuck into the back—very late by this time. This was a huge church. On stage, their were young children performing the story of Nicodemus.

I don’t know if you remember this story, but Nicodemus was a Jewish leader and teacher that came to Jesus late in the night because he was afraid of being discovered. He had questions because he was trying to “reason” his way to God (John 3).

As I watched the performance, I started to think. “This is me! I am this guy!”

Keep in mind that on stage there were children performing this skit, which is important. So many people just assume that skits and performances like this are just for the parents and grandparents, and it’s not really church.

But, for me at this stage of my life, it was perfect.

If there had been an adult preacher speaking, I probably would have been completely closed off because I was such a skeptic. To me, children were innocent and sincere. They didn’t “candy coat” stuff. And, they weren’t trying to “convince” me. Therefore, the honesty of it caught me off-guard.

Then the children started to sing “Jesus Loves Me.” However, they only sang the chorus with the recognizable tune. This was significant…

My dad used to sing this Sunday school song while in bed after chemo. He was a young Christian and didn’t know many songs by heart. But he knew this one, and he would sing it to lift his spirits while dealing with the weakness and dizziness of chemo. I was 9 years old at that time, and I remember hearing this song ring out of his room.

So, I was sitting in this huge room with all these smiling parents. Lights were down, and the children finished their performance by singing the chorus of “Jesus Loves Me.”

I was singing with them and my mind went back to the little blue shack.

And I thought,
“I can’t remember the rest of the words to this song. David, what are you doing? How far have you come that you can’t even remember the words of this song?”

And then I thought, “You are a sinner!”

At that moment, I got down on my knees right there in the pew. I remember praying to God.

Honestly, I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it went something like this,…

“Lord, I am a sinner. I know the Bible and the story of Jesus. I have been running a long time and chasing things that are empty. I believe, and I am ready to live for you.”

I remember when I got up I think I jumped a little into the air. I ran out to my car and went home. Then once I got home, I started calling people.

“Hey, guess what?”

“Do you know what happened tonight?”

I went on and on calling everyone I could think of. Some were ecstatic; others just said they were sorry. But, I never called Leslie. Honestly, I’m not sure why…

I remember calling my friend that first invited me to his church and to Destin on the singles outing. He was ecstatic and told me that it was an answer to a prayer he had been praying for a year.

The next night, I went to my other friend’s apartment—gathering just like we had always done—and, I fixed a drink from the bottle of bourbon I bought the week before. It was sitting in his fridge, left over from a get together on Friday or Saturday night.

I remember clearly thinking that I was just going to finish this bottle—which there was only a little left. So, I poured some in a high ball glass with ice and took a sip. When it hit my mouth, I remember frowning because it wasn’t what I expected. It was like I had drunk rubbing alcohol. It was the worse thing I’d ever put in my mouth.

That night, I stayed at my friend’s house for about an hour and then I left and gave him the rest of the bourbon.

Since then, I haven’t had a drink. I‘ve thought about it, and even craved it a little at business dinners. But, I have not really wanted it. In one night, I went from not being able to stop to hating the stuff.

Additionally, I started reading the Bible and praying every morning. I remember very clearly that reading the Bible was very different before and after this night. The Bible went from just reading words on a page with no meaning and no power, to words leaping off the page. Every word suddenly had deep meaning and excitement behind each syllable. I could not get enough of it. I started in the Gospel of John.

And, one more thing, I was still going to graduate school at Georgia State, which meant that I had to go downtown. I remember homeless people would come up to me as I walked to school just as they had always done. However, now I couldn’t just walk by them. I had this compassion that compelled me to do something. They must have hated me, because instead of throwing cash at them I’d offer to buy them food. I’d ask them to choose a restaurant, and would walk with them. On the way, I’d share the Gospel and pray with them. Sometimes they’d run from me while walking. Others would allow me to pray for them while we ordered their food at the restaurant.

And, that is my story of God’s Grace…and I am so thankful!

Leave a Reply