There may have only been nine miles between our campuses, but in a sense they were worlds apart: the Professor attended a small Christian school, while I was at a giant state school, even taking a class on evolution (a detail that somehow escaped me until the class began).
We had talked about religion and faith here and there over the summer without really getting anywhere. I believed in God and knew Jesus had died on the cross. I was good about going to church and tried to read the Bible regularly and to do good works. I didn't think anything else really needed to be said about the subject.
Ironically, it was some boys from my church who got on the Professor's case about the differences in our beliefs, and so, on a weekend home visit, the Professor said those dreaded words that no one in a relationship wants to hear: "We need to talk."
We were at my parents' farm. It was about 11pm. He could easily give me the break-up speech and be back home in his bed by midnight. I waited for a cheesy opening line: "It's not you, it's me"; "I just need some space"; "We're different people now" or some such like.
Instead, he started talking about Jesus. He talked about grace, a word I knew mostly from that famous hymn, and how my good works would never be enough to cover up or outweigh my sins.
I didn't fully understand it then, but I did feel a weight lift from my shoulders. I had always wondered just what it took to get to Heaven, but nobody could give me a clear answer. So, I had spent a lot of time in clubs, activities, service opportunities, largely because I wanted those things, but also always in the back of my mind hoping that they would make me "good enough."
But even though I was outwardly praised and rewarded, I knew that my heart held some pretty wicked things: gossip, lies, judgment, even lust. I often wondered (and worried) just what the ratio of good works would have to be to outweigh the wrongs I did and thought.
We walked outside and searched the Professor's car for a Bible. He led me down the Romans Road, showing me Scripture that explained that I was a sinner (agreed), that Jesus died on the cross (agreed) in my place to pay for my sins because I could not pay such a high price (new to me), and that He offered salvation as a free gift (new to me). I need only call on His name and believe (totally new to me).
The Professor led me in prayer, and while I still didn't entirely grasp what had happened, I knew that everything was changed. That I was changed and changed forever.
I have a greater understanding of my salvation these days, though truly it is still a marvelous mystery that the Lord would save a wretch like me. And that he used the Professor to speak that truth to me? Makes it all the sweeter.