I became a believer at nine years old.
At the end of catechism classes at age 12, I was baptized.
During both events I was aware and touched by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
In my 20's I learned of the different ways and times of life that Christians practice baptism. I considered, for a number of months, whether or not I should be rebaptized because I had not been submerged at age 12. Our Methodist Pastor Paul, (who I dearly love because he liked all my questions) sprinkled me on the forehead. As a 20 something, I concluded that since the Holy Spirit decided to make Himself known to me the day of my baptism that He must not have been bothered by the practice of sprinkling and I let the idea of being re-baptized go.
One of the surprises came as we prepared for Israel. I developed a strong desire to be baptized in the Jordan River. I almost got scared off by reports that the site can seem a bit circus like. There are lots of people who are baptized or re-baptized in the Jordan River in Israel. But as I prayed about it I realized that this was something I really felt led to do and I desired to do.
The day arrives in Israel. It's wet and cold from the beginning. It was raining off and on. More on than off. Our guide keeps checking in to see if we still wanted to go through with it. Six of our group of fifteen made the decision to be batptized and we all wanted to proceed to the site.
Before sharing what was significant between the Lord and I, I want to share what it was like to be loved well by our community. Humans don't like to be uncomfortable. They do not find that enjoyable. Most find being wet and cold at the top, or close to the top of things they'd prefer not to experience. You would not have been able to observe that in the nine others that accompanied us to the Jordan River. They were excited. Picking out the best place for our little group to gather. Selecting the best spots to capture the moment on camera. Figuring out how to protect the camera equipment from the rain. They could have been storing them away and giving up on pictures. After the events, I found myself reflecting on what it was like to be a part of a group making those choices of love. I also pondered the observations made by our Israeli guide. He spoke to our group, with awe in his voice, about the decision to press on in spite of the rain and noticed our devotion to one another in the process. "They will know we are Christians by our love for one another."; Those words came alive in our group that afternoon. This is very significant to me. To the nine, I did not adequately express to you how loved I felt on that day. I hope you are reading these words now. From a place deep in my heart, I say thank you.
I also want to say that I have had the privledge of walking closely with several others baptized that day. It is a great joy to me that you included me in the process of deciding to be baptized and/or sharing with me the significance of your decision to be baptized. Your willingness to include me made it all the more meaningful to witness. Thank you.
Between the Lord and me
As the day grew closer, I found myself wanting to understand the reasons for why I wanted to be baptized. I asked the Lord to help me see the significance in my life at this time. An insight that came before the event was the realization that when I was baptized as I child I did not understand the significance of being identified with Christ. Nor did I understand the significance of dying with Christ to be raised again to life in Him. Today, 34 years past my first baptism, my time in relationship with the Lord has given me a better understanding of both realities. I desired to testify to my faith in Christ and I desired to prayerfully experience being submerged into the water and raised back up out of the water. Both experiences were as meaningful as I had hoped they would be.
But there was more...
Initially, as I came up out of the water, I shared the joy and broad smiles with those around me.
A few steps up out of water, I burst into tears. Why? I had obeyed. There was no sense of obligation in the obedience. I was motivated by love. I felt known and seen and loved by my Heavenly Father. My heart felt open and free to receive His love and acceptance. I had listened to and walked into the desire of my heart. It was a rich and unexpected surprise as I tasted sweet fellowship with The Father, My Savior and the Holy Spirit over my willingness to obey and His response to me in that. I hope that moment leaves a lasting impression and even changes me.
Andie, Colleen, Me, Steve (Pastor), Bob, Mike and Kandy