I became a Christian at age three.
You read that right...age three
For years, I had been somewhat hesitant to announce that to the world. After all, how could a three-year old have any real understanding of salvation?
But a few months ago, as I sat before two of our pastors at our church membership interview, timidly telling them of my three-year old conversion story, I realized that my hesitancy was unwarranted and actually somewhat sinful.
"I was blessed to be raised in a Christian home," I told them. "And I became a Christian at a very young age...I mean a very young age...three years old." I sheepishly looked up, half expecting to see them glance at each other skeptically, but instead, seeing them both look back at me, nodding intently. "Sometimes I feel silly even saying it because I know people are probably thinking to themselves, 'Oh, she couldn't have understood at that age.' But to be honest, there was never a point after that when I questioned my initial conversion. Sure, I came to understand the depths of God's grace and mercy more and more as I grew older, but I really truly believe that at some basic level, I understood at three years old that Christ had saved me."
I went on to tell them about how my Sunday School teacher, Mr. Meissner, had done a felt board presentation of the gospel, and that after the story, when all the other children had gone back to their tables, he called my name, "Chelsea, can you come back here sweetie?' he asked. I remember looking back at him, crouched down to my level with his eyes smiling at me. I saw something in his eyes that I loved (now I know that it was the sweet love of Jesus), and I wanted it. He sat with me for a moment, reiterating the gospel story. In three-year old terms, he explained that God is perfect and holy and that because God is perfect and holy, he demands perfection and holiness. But because of my sin, I could never attain perfection or holiness on my own. In fact, not only could I not attain it, but instead of being WITH God, I was (justly) condemned to death...an eternity apart from God. But, he told me, God had sent his only son, Jesus Christ to die in my place. Jesus, who never sinned, paid the penalty for MY sin so that I might be free from the chains of sin and death. And not only that, but he CONQUERED death by rising again on the third day, and he clothed me in HIS own righteousness so that when God looks at me, he no longer sees my sin, but instead sees the Christ. All I had to do was believe in him as my savior.
"And at three years old, I wanted to know this man named Jesus," I told them. "I wanted the love of Jesus, I wanted to believe, and I went home that evening and prayed with my mom to accept Christ as my savior. And to be honest, since then, while I've had my ups and downs, I have not once questioned the validity of my belief at such a young age."
As I finished telling them about my conversion, our senior pastor looked at me, with the same smiling eyes as dear old Mr. Meissner, overflowing with Jesus' love, and he asked, "Chelsea, have you heard the story of Phoebe Bartlett?"
I had not, so he went on to tell me about little Phoebe Bartlett, who had accepted Christ at the ripe old age of four under the ministry of Jonathan Edwards. Her conversion made such an impression on Edwards that he wrote about her in his "Narrative of Surprising Conversions." That night, I went home and read the story of Phoebe Bartlett, and I felt immediately as though little Phoebe and I were kindred spirits. I realized then that I didn't need to be shy about my conversion any more. Instead, I should proclaim it boldly and gratefully. It is truly a story of God's grace, not just in saving me, but in saving me at such a young age, before I even had a chance to really know the world without him.
How sweet to know that my conversion is one of my very first memories of this life!
During the weeks following our meeting, I began to think more upon my early childhood conversion, so grateful for my salvation but also yearning for a better understanding of exactly what I had been saved from at three years old. On the night before Good Friday, I had a vivid dream where I saw my three year old self skipping across an old draw bridge. The next day, I wrote a poem, retelling what I had seen in this dream. Even now, I am brought to tears as I read the line, "His lost little girl was now found."
The Man at the Foot Bridge
I skipped along the wayward path,
curls bouncing in the breeze.
I smiled, not knowing where I went
amidst the forest trees.
I came upon a wooden bridge,
swaying to and fro.
Skipping, skipping, all the way,
whilst the winds did blow.
But as I skipped, I heard a voice
calling out my name.
I quickly turned and saw the man
from which the calling came.
With open arms, he called again,
"Come back, my child!" he said.
"This pathway is not safe for you.
Follow me, instead."
There was something about him I couldn't resist.
Strange, yet familiar was he.
Barefoot, I pattered across that old bridge,
For with him, I wanted to be.
I tugged on his robe, and he lifted me up,
Swinging me, 'round and around.
Laughing, rejoicing with tears in his eyes,
His lost little girl was now found.
And just as we turned away from the bridge,
Lo! The ground started to shake.
Holding me tight, we looked back at that bridge
as it crumbled and started to break.
My head on his chest, I started to weep,
as the rotten bridge gave way.
I knew not where I went, nor the path I was on,
without knowing, I'd fallen astray.
But the man who was holding me tight to his chest,
wiped my tears from my cheek as he said,
"You're safe, little one. You have no more to fear.
Come awake, child! You're no longer dead."
"For I knew you before you took your first steps,
and I knew on which path you were bound.
But in love, I came down and saved you from grief
so my mercy and grace would abound."
We turned and he showed me a narrower path
and told me to "Run well the race."
At nightfall, he told me he had to go home,
but he was leaving a friend in his place.
Now all grown up, I remember that man,
and I thank him again and again
For saving that blonde little curly head girl,
from eternal torment and pain.
Today, as I walk down the narrow path,
with the friend that he left at my side,
I thank him for saving that little blonde girl,
so that one day, with Him, I'll abide.
Lord, thank you for saving that little blonde girl, so that one day, with you, I'll abide.