Today's story is about this one time that I got baptized.
Let me start with a little history.
I didn't really grow up in church. I mean, I went to a few VBS's and youth group lock-ins and such, and I knew the basics....Adam and Eve, Jonah and the Whale, Moses...Ben Herr, John Wayne, Cleopatra..ya know...all the Bible stories! But my knowledge of and interest in anything to do with God was very low. I think deep down I wished there was a God, and even deeper down than that....I knew there was a God. I think I just always felt like if there was one....He didn't want to have anything to do with me. I remember in high school my mom wanted my brother, Kirk, and I to get baptized. We both totally refused. We both took the stance of, why would we get baptized when we aren't religious? Just so we can look like we are? So we can go through the steps of what "good people" are supposed to do in life? No matter how mad she got at us, we just wouldn't budge.
Fast forward to Summer 2009.
My church was having a big group baptism. I had decided I wanted to get baptized a while before that and couldn't wait. To me, getting baptized was just one more outward way of expressing my drastic inner change. It was important to me that I came to that decision all by myself. I was getting baptized, not because I "should" or it's what "good Christian's" do, but because I just felt this need to. Kinda like when you feel hungry...you just have to eat...well, I just had to get baptized.
The week prior to the baptism everything in my life seemed to suck. I couldn't understand why I felt so flippin' craptastic about life, but I did. The morning of the baptism, I woke up not wanting to go at all. So last minute, I decide.not to go. I called up one of my friends in DC and told them I felt like hanging out with them instead. As I was getting ready to walk out of my apartment....I did something really really weird. I didn't even think about it..I just did it. I walked into my bedroom and got out this gold cross necklace that my Grammy had given me as a little girl and put it on. I hadn't worn it since I was little. I never wear gold jewelry, so the fact that I put it on that day on my way to see a friend in DC, was totally out of character. Then I walked out the door with all intentions of spending this beautiful summer day in DC.
When I texted my brother to tell him that I wasn't going to come, he simply replied back..."Kate, you need to get here. Do it for yourself. No excuses." At first, I was so mad. I can do what I WANT! I had already made my big girl grown-up decision to not go. I was already at Target buying flip flops to wear to walk around the waterfront in DC. So, I did what any big girl grown up would do....I started crying in the juniors section of Target. I don't just mean watery eyes....I mean, full on crying. I know that I must have looked like a crazy person. And you know what....I felt like a crazy person. I felt like there was this actual tug-of-war going on inside me. I had felt it all week long. I felt like one minute I would be so excited about getting baptized, and then the next minute thinking of ways I wouldn't have to do it. In hindsight, I realize that the reason it felt like a tug-of-war, was because....it really was a tug-of-war.
You see, we don't really understand or realize the spiritual implications of our physical actions. Baptism can seem so simple. You are going to get dunked under water. What is so important and spiritual about that? Why would getting baptized create some internal struggle..!??? I technically could be baptizing myself every time I get a shower if the only requirement is being immersed in water. But what I didn't fully understand at the time is that baptism isn't just a "thing" we do. In the spiritual realm...it does something big....HUGE even. This isn't about dunking yourself under water, which is what the Devil would prefer you think...it's a real spiritual action in the real spiritual battle we are fighting all the time. Sound totally crazy nuts!? Well, faith is believing in what we can't see....and I know that there are lots of things that I can't see, but still believe in.....love, trust, gravity, free designer shoes....!
Anywho, I was in a serious spiritual battle and I could actually feel it raging inside me. It took some hysterical crying in Target for me to get pissed off at the whole situation enough to get myself to church as soon as possible. I was driving like I was in the Fortune 500. I felt like if I didn't get there immediately I was going to explode. It was quite an odd feeling given the fact that just moments before I was totally confident in my decision to go to DC instead.
There were lots of people getting baptized that day. I stood and waited patiently. I still felt like I didn't really want to go, but at the same time just feeling like I would like to get it over with. Pastor Clark would look up at me in between each person and I kept thinking that he was going to call me next, but he didn't. It was almost near the very end. I was starting to worry that I wasn't going to get the chance to go. Then, Pastor Clark turned around and looked at me. He didn't even say anything at first. I almost couldn't meet his gaze because I felt like he was looking right through me and into my soul where the battle was raging. I finally looked up at him and he smiled, grabbed my hand and pull me in to him and hugged me. My whole church was standing around watching as I burst into tears...again. (I would be a big huge liar if I said that was the only time that my church saw me crying.) Pastor Clark just hugged me for awhile as I let it all out. These weren't tears because of just a frustrating week. These were tears that had been pent up inside me for a long long time. What I realized that day was that giving myself to God was more important to me than anything I would ever do in all my life. The realization was overwhelming. I started shaking even before I got into the water.
I climbed into the freezing cold water. I looked out at my church family. Some of them were crying with me or for me, I couldn't be sure. When Pastor Clark asked me if I had anything I wanted to say before we got started I said yes. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I raised my hands up to God and I told Him that I was sorry that I almost didn't come. I confessed to everyone that I had been having a hard time lately, but that today was more important than my wedding day, and I was so happy that I didn't run away. I told them that this is the day that I say my vows to God. I say "I do" to whatever He wants me to do with my life. I will love, honor, and cherish Him. I will forsake all others before Him. I will come up out of this water a brand new woman in every way. All the pain, all the sadness, all the hard times, all of the negativity that was in my life would all be washed away and replaced with God's Holy Spirit. Then Pastor Clark and Pastor Andy baptized me.
So, after I got home I realized that I was wearing that gold cross necklace that I had put on earlier that morning. When I called my parents to tell them about the baptism I also mentioned that I was wearing the necklace that my Grammy had given me. My mom had forgotten about that necklace and asked me if it was the same one that my Pap Pap had given her. I didn't know, so I called my Grammy. I told her about my baptism and she was so happy. Then I told her that I was wearing the gold cross she had given me as a little girl and she didn't speak for a second. She asked me to hold on. When she gets back on the phone she was laughing so hard. I asked her what she was laughing at. She told me that she had totally forgotten that she had given me that necklace and thought that she still had it. My Pap Pap had given that necklace to my Grammy when she was 17...before they even really dated. That same year, my Grammy wore that very same necklace when she got baptized. WHOA!!!! I couldn't believe it. I sat there with my mouth hanging open. First of all.....I didn't know the necklace was a gift from my grandfather. Second, I had no clue she had worn it during her baptism....I didn't even know she had ever been baptized. And third, I couldn't believe that after all those years sitting in my jewelry box, that I would put it on the day of my baptism. Explain that people! It's just too crazy too explain.
God is so amazing.