I’ve written about many of the strange events in my life, from an awkward stage kiss to a severed human arm, but not until now of the day I committed my soul to God. It was… I don’t remember what kind of day it was. It was probably muggy and overcast. I was indoors at the time, standing in line, waiting for a meal that was, in retrospect, soggy and terrible.
I speak of That Time I Got Saved, a tale of grace and burgers.
(For full effect, you must read the title of this story with a Southern Baptist drawl: “That Time Ah Gawt Saaaved.”)
Unlike some of my other That Time I _____ stories, this one isn’t all that exotic or sensational. Heck, it doesn’t even make for a compelling testimony. I got saved while standing in line for a nasty hamburger.
This happened nearly twenty years ago in French Burger, a sketchy fast food joint. For all I know, it’s still open for business. (I really hope it isn’t.) French Burger served beef patties on cheap buns soaked in some kind of milky fluid: probably mayonnaise diluted by the moisture from wet shredded lettuce. These mushy burgers were served in little mustard-colored plastic bags. The burger juice would collect at the bottom of the bag, along with stray wisps of lettuce and shreds of soggy bun. The horror! The horror!
French Burger was tucked in a corner of a parking lot in Santo Domingo de los Colorados, a city built to the west of the Andes Mountains in Ecuador. My family and I spent about four years there. My memories of Santo Domingo are few and faint, but I recall gloomy impressions of mud, concrete, overcast weather, and weeds.
Understandably, I spent much of that time indoors: watching VHS tapes of old cartoons, building with Legos, playing and replaying games on our Super Nintendo Entertainment System, dodging home school assignments, learning to read—subsequently reading with voracious interest—and trying to write a novel. (Spoilers: I quit after two paragraphs.) It was a formative time. I discovered Nintendo, J.R.R. Tolkien, Star Wars, C.S. Lewis, and coffee.
I did occasionally venture forth into the community: picking up fragments of Spanish, pestering the neighbors, riding my bike, and buying bread from the local shops. My family and I made regular visits to a local river, where I encountered a Giant Mutant Killer Jungle Ant. We also visited nearby restaurants, such as a French Burger and Kentucky Fried Chicken. (KFC is weirdly popular in Ecuador.)
It was during a visit to French Burger that I found myself waiting in line, and committed my soul to God. I could joke that I got saved just in case I died of my lousy hamburger, but at the time, I actually liked those soggy messes. (My tastes have much improved, I hope.) As I waited, I realized that I should probably be saved. I was raised in a Christian home, surrounded by Adventures in Odyssey and Sunday school lessons, with the Gospel of Christ rattling around in my head. It finally occurred to me that I should probably do something about it.
I… didn’t really do anything about it. I prayed a trite sinner’s prayer—which I repeated over the next few weeks just to make sure my salvation stuck—and then continued to live however the heck I wanted. My life continued to be as messy as those burgers.
That day in French Burger didn’t make an immediate impact, but it was a tiny step forward, and God is known to work wonders with little things.
It wasn’t until the start of high school that I became a proper Christian. It wasn’t exactly a decision, but more like a gradual movement toward Christ. I took prayer more seriously, began reading the Bible, and made a sincere effort to be less of a jerk. My faith has wavered over the years, but for better or worse, I’ve kept it.
The salvation of my soul wasn’t an event of dazzling beauty or splendid emotion, but it was a start. After all, redemption has to begin somewhere. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Neither bad burgers nor bad people can preclude the grace of God.