My Turning Point: Toward Grace

Wyatt has been a close friend for many years and he told me about the point in his life when he learned what God’s grace truly meant. Up to that time he had been a “good Christian,” but it was based on his own “goodness.” He wrote it down for all of us to read; hopefully you can relate to it as well.

Many years ago I was walking through Wal-Mart with my wife when someone called for help from a few aisles over. The cry was, “Does anyone know CPR?” Knowing that I had recently taught an American Red Cross CPR course, my lovely bride graciously yelled back and offered my services.

When we rounded the corner we saw a very large man flat on his back. He was dressed in “Harley Davidson garb” which matched the motorcycle parked in the parking lot. He also wore a mustache and beard. I proceeded to get down on the floor and administer CPR though I’ll admit, not as correctly as I’d taught the students to do in the recent months. I was not very enthusiastic either as the man had a small amount of vomit on his mouth. (My understanding is that this happens frequently when people stop breathing from cardiac arrest.)

During the course of performing the CPR a small crowd had gathered around to “watch.” One person in the crowd was a nurse who was instructing me from behind because she could see that the man was large and I was having a difficult time getting air into his lungs. Frustrated, I turned and asked “Would you like to try?” to which she responded “I’m an RN, I can’t.” implying some legal risk I guess –but we all know the real reason.

I continued until the ambulance arrived and gave the situation over to the professionals. As I left the scene we went straight to the pharmacy department where I picked up a bottle of Listerine which I purchased and promptly gargled and drank in the parking lot.

Let me state here that at this point in my life I considered myself a devout Christian and was very proud of my Christ-like attitude and behavior. As I left Wal-Mart that night many things were racing through my mind.
– Why was my first reaction to turn and run away –preferring to avoid the whole situation rather than “get involved”.
– Why was my wife’s first reaction to run toward those in need (or at least offer her husband up to those in need)?
– When I saw the man why was I filled with disgust rather than compassion?
– What had I really learned from the story of the Good Samaritan?

In my mind why was I saying things like “If this guy would have taken better care of himself he wouldn’t be dying on the floor right now.” and “It’s no wonder he went into cardiac arrest, look at what a glutton he has been.”

Then thoughts turned toward myself, “I hope I don’t catch AIDS from this guy.” (I actually went to the doctor to get tested because his teeth broke the skin on my thumb when I was trying to pry his mouth open.) I fell into a deep depression after this and felt that I was probably to blame for this man’s death (I confirmed from a friend who works at the hospital that he died there that night).

In my mind I wondered what happened to the devout Christian who was so full of good works and Christ-like love? I began to doubt many things including my own salvation. It took some time to get through this but in retrospect, I realize that the Lord was showing me the depths of my heart and the wickedness that dwells within. All my Christian life up to this point had been from self-effort and self-dependence. Even though on the outside I looked like a good Christian (attended church regularly, taught the college students on Wednesday night, kept the 2-year-olds on Sunday morning, held prayer meetings in my office at school, etc.) on the inside there was something quite contrary. I was the Pharisee Jesus described when he said “You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.”

I later realized that those things within me weren’t evidence of an unsaved life. They were simply what the bible refers to as the flesh. The same flesh that Paul dealt with in Romans 7. I realized that the Lord was turning me from my self-righteousness to the realization of my need for total dependence on Him. I am convinced that there is nothing good that dwells in me apart from Him.

That day in Wal-Mart devastated me for quite some time because it revealed a rather ugly thing in me that I didn’t know existed. I realize that the Lord was doing a work in me that day that would change me forever. That is why I called this day “My Turning Point For Grace”. I now know that my salvation is totally His work. If I had any role in it whatsoever I would be doomed. It is His Amazing Grace from start to finish which was completed by Christ’s work at the Cross. I now know that if anything good comes from my life –if any love pours forth from me– it is only because He is doing it through me and I have somehow gotten out of His way.