I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a ‘law man’ so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with Him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not mine, but is lived by faith in the Son of God who loves me & gave Himself for me.
Galatians 2:19-21, The Message
This past Sunday evening, I was baptized.
It has been 24 years since my tiny head was first sprinkled with the lukewarm tap water that represents new life. Back then, I was a wide-eyed baby in front of the sanctuary where my parents were married, unknowingly participating in an ancient sacrament.
My infant baptism is a tradition that is a part of my story, and it shows a beautiful commitment on behalf of my parents to their God and the full life they desired for me. I am grateful for it.
But I don’t remember that day.
And baptism, I decided recently, is something I want to remember.
So, a few weeks ago, with all sorts of nerves and questions in my head, but a strong leading in my heart, I signed up to be baptized again as an adult.
I battled doubt and insecurity.
“Why now?” I asked myself. “I’ve been following God, albeit imperfectly, for years now.”
“Why Red Rocks Church, and not somewhere else? It’s a big church, where lots of people will be watching. Surely a lake or a beach somewhere would be more poetic and meaningful for this baptism thing?”
“What will my parents think of the service? Will they feel like their choice to baptize me as a baby is not being honored?”
I battled, but God’s voice was steady.
I knew I didn’t have to get baptized to secure good standing with Him. Rather, I felt the Lord inviting me to participate, as a way of participating in the life Jesus modeled.
The word that I kept coming back to – the word that centered me back on Christ amid the nervousness – was fullness.
I want to be a person that believes Jesus at His word when he says, “I came that they may have life, and life to the full” (John 10:10). I don’t want anything – no obstacle or fear or insecurity, no critique or cowardice, no scheduling conflict or small excuse – to hold me back from knowing and experiencing that fullness.
I want to take seriously the instruction Jesus gave, the disciplines He practiced, the meals He shared, the people He saw, the justice He fought for, the discomfort He willingly walked into, and the radical love He embodied, believing that all of those things leap off the pages of my Bible and into my life, showing me the way to the fullness of life Jesus came to give me.
Baptism, for me, is one of those things.
Jesus started it. He practiced it. He encouraged it. And I believe that He meant for me to see and feel and remember it, as a way of participating in His life and His freedom. I believe that He created Baptism for my fullness of life in Him.
Just as there is deep symbolism and participation in the sacrament of communion – the tasting of the bread and wine, the meditating, the remembering – there is a tangible experience with Jesus that happens when we are baptized. Something ancient and unexplainable occurs, allowing our fragile human hearts to experience the heavenly.
And on Sunday, I got to experience a glimpse of the heavenly.
I drove to church in my swim suit, checked in, and found my seat.
I hugged my sweet friend, who agreed to baptize me. Her presence with me throughout the day was so wonderful, and it celebrated the many important truths she has spoken into my life in the last couple of years.
We joined the other participants and our pastor in prayer before the service. Everyone buzzed with nervous energy and excitement.
And before I knew it, I was shuffling out to a warm pool under warm stage lights.
I went into the water fully me, and came out somehow still my full self, but with a refreshment that I know to be only from God. I felt my deficit of imperfection before the Lord be instantly and beautifully defeated by love, affirmation, and Christ’s promises for my life.
Baptism, for me, wasn’t one day or one moment or one choice, but the culmination of many days and moments and choices, God’s story continuously unfolding in my life, each step taking me closer to my calling and true identity in Him.
I let everyone see my vulnerability, trusting that my risk would not shake my fullness, but contribute to it. And it was awesome. Sweet, celebratory and JOY-full in every way. Full, indeed.
One of my dear friends wrote a benediction for the day that is absolutely beautiful, and a perfect summary of my hopes for my baptism ceremony, and every day to come.
Thank you to everyone who celebrated the day with me. And thank you, Lord, for the story you’re writing in and through my life. Thank you for giving me your courage, and for meeting me in the water.
A Baptism Benediction
May you walk forth in this life with bravery, resting in the knowledge of the father’s love for you. May God’s spirit season your days with courage and joy and peace. And may this day serve as a reminder of God’s faithful provision in your life.