Sunday, May 26, 2013

Baptism ~ The Rite Thing to Do

I was baptized as an infant some 48 years ago.  I was born into a Catholic family and that's just the way it was done.  I didn't have a choice – it wasn't my decision – not that I ever minded.


I was raised with church as part of my life – I never minded that either. Well, to be honest, there were times as a youngster that I do remember fidgeting in the pews – what kid doesn't?


After my parents' divorce, St. Al's (as we called it) didn't seem as accepting of us as they had been previously (the times they have a-changed, but this was then), and so we began going to a very small rural Presbyterian church.  It was cozy.  And from there, we went on to discover a Lutheran church in a nearby town that became our home for many years.  Leaving my Catholic roots behind me, I converted to Lutheranism and actually joined Holy Cross.  My parents bought me my first Bible as a congratulatory gift and Pastor Holmin wrote a lovely inscription inside of it.


About two decades later, I began watching Dr. Charles Stanley – a Baptist minister – on TV.  I really liked the no-nonsense approach he took in delivering his sermons.  The Bible became more real to me, not that I didn't think it was real before, but he made it so relatable and applicable to every day life.  In the past I tried to understand the message of Scripture to understand God and Jesus, but I began to see how those same messages applied to me and my life.  At this point, I often attended Holy Cross on Saturday night, watched Dr. Stanley early Sunday morning, and then met my parents at the local Baptist church in town.  I suppose I was hungry for the Word and I was really getting my fill… then I moved across the country.


Just a few months after moving to AZ, I went to a nearby non-denominational Christian church.  They played contemporary Christian music and preached right from the Bible.  The services were without pomp and circumstance – no stand now, repeat this, respond with that, kneel, sit and so on – just pure worship and education.  As it happened, they were just beginning a study in the book of Genesis – a fascinating book filled with drama.  I was hooked.  I did not want to miss a single Sunday.  A year later I volunteered to assist with the Children's Ministry.  It's not that I had a calling.  They just needed help and I thought, "Don't be so selfish with your time, you could do that."  Eight years later, I still do that.  It's a privilege and a blessing to help impart the Word of God and to teach about Jesus to these little ones.  It's safe to say I am 'plugged in' at church.


Even though we're non-denominational, we do believe in the rite of Baptism – but not as an infant. It's a decision to be made as an adult.  It has nothing to do with salvation – all that requires is belief in Jesus, who He said he was and what He did for us.  Essentially, baptism is an outward expression of that belief, a public declaration, if you will.


I've known many who were baptized, but for whatever reason, I was reluctant to do it.


It's funny – on a side note – years ago when my ex-boyfriend called me out of the blue, somehow my church going was part of our 2 hour "So, what have you been up to?" catch-up conversation and I remember him remarking, "Oh, you're still into that?" As if a character defining belief is something that one would outgrow.  "Yes," I said to him, "I'm still into that." 


Also funny (but more ha-ha), a couple of years ago my young niece asked me what a nun was.  I'm not sure what inspired this question, but I answered it just the same.  I told her a num was a woman who did not marry but chose instead to dedicate her life to Jesus.  In her innocence she asked me if I was a nun.  "Um, no, Sweetie, I'm not." was how I responded.  I often feel when she gets older and reads my life story – as detailed in my dating memoir – she may feel she's been duped by me somehow.  I hope not. 


My life has certainly not been lily-white.  I sometimes get defensive about it and console myself saying, "Well, I never put anybody in the front lines."  King David had a heart for God – in spite of his mistakes.  He was human and so am I.  That's the beauty of God's grace – He looks to our hearts. 


Some people reading this may think I'm about to head off to the airport in a caftan with a tambourine professing the day of the Lord – I'm not.  (TSA won't let you do that anymore – kidding.)  I don't think of myself as a zealot, Bible banger or religious nut-job.  I'm simply a believer in Jesus.  I rely on Him daily – He's always by my side – and that's why I began to feel that I should make that public declaration; so, on 5/19, Pentecost Sunday as it turns out, I was baptized.


It was a wonderful experience.  My family came and many of the children I've taught were there – all clamoring around me.  I specifically requested the pastor of the Children's Ministry baptize me and was moved that he agreed to do so. 


After a brief exchange of a few simple words, he got down to business.  Taking me in his arms, he said, "It's my honor to baptize you…" – he began to lay me back – "…in the name of the Father, the Son…" – I was almost lying on the water at this point – "…and the Holy Spirit."  Pwhissshhh.  I went under – full emersion.  As the water enveloped me and my hair billowed around, I was aware of how soft and all-encompassing the water felt, like I was wrapped in it.  And then, just as quickly as I was submerged, I was pulled back up.  As I came out, I took a full breath feeling as if – in that first breath – I had just been sealed by God as one of His own – which I am. 


People clapped and the children roared.  As I made my way through the crowd, soaking wet, my nephew ran up to me and asked, "How did it feel?"  I said, "It was wonderful, G."  And it truly was – it was a wonder-filled experience.


Walking my walk,

~ M.



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