Sunday I made a decision I had been wrestling with for awhile.
Back story: I was baptized at the age of 11, during a revival at the church I grew up in. All the kids around my age were getting baptized and “saved” (which brings up theological issues that I don’t have the desire or patience to unpack here) around this time. While I don’t necessarily question my 11-year old sincerity at the time, I have often questioned my understanding of what exactly it was that I was doing. I had been in church all of my short 11 years and while I knew “church” very well and had been inundated with all degrees of religiosity, legalism and opinions and personal preferences sold as “doctrine”, I know for a fact that I did not know or “get” the Gospel.
In the denomination I grew up in, salvation wasn’t presented as by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8) in Christ ALONE, but rather it was sold as a proverbial “get out of hell, free” card. The salvation I grew up understanding and embracing wasn’t based on the cross, but rather on my ability to follow the formula, be good enough and adhere to enough rules that I would be acceptable to God which, from my experience, resulted in a whole lot of arrogance, self-righteousness and spiritual pride. THAT’S certainly not going to be a popular statement, but it is my story, nonetheless.
Looking back over my journey in the 23 years or so since then, I’ve gotten a lot of perspective and had a lot of time to think about what all that meant. Do I believe that I was “saved” to the greatest extent of my ignorance at that time? Yes. Do I still hold that experience as being sufficient and definitive of what it means to be a Christ follower in my life today? No.
A few months ago, someone asked me a question that is not all that uncommon in Christian circles, especially when you’re first getting to know someone.
“How long have you been a believer?”
My reply: “that’s a loaded question.” At that time, I was right in the middle of this whole season where Jesus was showing me my heart and subsequently wrecking it. Through a series of events which I have discussed quite candidly here, as well as some I haven’t talked about yet, my life had been wrecked and I understood, quite possibly for the first time in my life, exactly why I needed a savior. When I was asked that question, I realized that on one hand I had been a believer since 11 years old, but on another hand, and more importantly, perhaps only a few months. Over the course of the previous few months, the Gospel had dawned on me and I understood it in a way I never had before. Sure, I had “believed”, but NEVER like this. I realized that Christ’s goal wasn’t for me to stop going to the movies, wearing shorts or listening to rock music (don’t get me started), but rather to intentionally, passionately, relentlessly apprehend my heart.
The pain of self-awareness can be the beginning of spiritual transformation. Stop dodging yourself.
If ever there was a statement to encapsulate the past several years of my life, it was that one. All the painful and heart-wrenching months that had led up to right now were also transforming me in ways I could see and some I can’t yet. And yes, I had been religiously and methodically dodging coming face to face with myself for so long. When it finally happened, it undid and changed me.
All of that leads up to the present. For the past couple months I’ve been contemplating and wrestling with the idea of getting baptized again. I wanted to do it to mark this particular moment of my life in a public way and to say to God, “I am doing THIS, with understanding and gratitude of what You did and are doing.” So why was I wrestling with it? It’s simple. Pride. I was so afraid of what people might think, possibly not knowing my story, wondering why I’m JUST getting baptized, etc. I mean, SURELY, by 35 years old… I’ve already done THAT! God forbid anyone think I’m not who they perceived me to be!!! #pridesucks #faithfail
I wrestled with it for weeks, discussed it with some close friends but eventually talked myself out of it, though in my heart I knew I really wanted to do it. I knew that Baptism Sunday was coming up at Cross Point, but I just couldn’t bring myself to commit and follow through. I woke up this past Sunday morning a little upset with myself that I couldn’t seem to move forward past this stupid pride and fear and just do it.
As I was sitting in the 10am service, Blake Bergstrom brought a powerful message about the love of the Father, His passionate pursuit of our heart and jealousy for our affection… a theme I’ve recently been stuck on and blogged about. As the message ended, the worship team started to lead “How He Loves”. As soon as I heard them sing “He is jealous for me…”, I broke and knew today was the day. While I stood there and worshipped God, watching others be baptized, I decided that I would kick the pride and just do it. TODAY.
After the 10am service I shared with Blake what I wanted to do and why. I stayed for the 11:30 service and when it was time, I took the step, moved past my fear and stepped into the water with an understanding of what this meant and was baptized. I am proud to say that no stretchy pants were used in my baptism.
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4)
I did it for me. I did it for my heart. I did it to publicly identify myself with the death and resurrection of Christ and what that means in my life every single day.