I’m Getting Baptized, But I’m Sad. That was the title of this post last week. Fortunately, it’s not true anymore. Why? Because I didn’t get baptized. And I’m glad.
I’ve grown up in the church and I’ve never been baptized. At any significant time in the church (membership, etc.) it was always the same question: “Have you been baptized, or if not, will you consent to being baptized at a later date?” My honest answer was always, “Yes”. This happened in the following places:
- Youth membership at the Northgate FMC in Batavia, NY
- Full membership at the Rome FMC in Rome, NY
- Pastoral staff at Waynesboro FMC in Waynesboro, VA
- Lead pastor/Church planter at Crossroads Community Church in Utica, NY
- Jr. High Pastor at Spring Arbor FMC in Spring Arbor, MI
- Adult/Full Membership at Spring Arbor FMC in Spring Arbor, MI
I went through several seasons in my perspective on baptism:
- Irrelevant: It’s not crucial for admission to heaven, therefore, I don’t need to
- Disobedient: I don’t see anywhere in the Bible where baptism is required
- Guilt: I should have been baptized before, I guess I should so people don’t think something negatively about me
- Embarrassment: I hope nobody finds out I’m not baptized because I’m a pastor now. Maybe I could secretly get baptized somewhere to check it off my list
- Arrogance: Baptism isn’t for me.
- Reluctance: I wonder if I should do this sometime.
- Acceptance: Hmm. This isn’t an option. It’s time.
This summer, after reading through Crazy Love and listening to Francis’ series on the Holy Spirit, I read Acts 2 for the umpteenth time. I processed through the Holy Spirit showing up with power, people’s lives changing in an instant, and the crowd asking Peter “What shall we do with this?”. Peter’s response: “Repent, be baptized, and you will be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Wow. Pretty cut and dried. The power of the Holy Spirit inside my body. Power. From this. It’s really simple. Three steps. No real room for interpretation or theology.
In my seasons of reasons why I didn’t get baptized, one key area of struggle for me was the idea that I had to get my life together or attain some state of “spiritualness” to be baptized. Or I had to “hear from the Lord” He wanted me to. Or some strange perspective like that. Looking back on it now, it seems crazy. Silly really. Why? Because I’ll never have my life together. I’ll never stop sinning. I’ll never not be me. Like Paul, I’m the chief of sinners. Instead of trying to become a certain way, why don’t I embrace my poverty? Embrace my sin? Embrace my fallenness? Embrace my lack of everything? Why don’t I then celebrate it? Even bring it as an offering to someone? God maybe? And then THATs where the real transformation happens. Stop trying to act holy. Celebrate the Holy Spirit’s ability to clean me up. Celebrate Abba’s unconditional love and acceptance of my poverty, my sin, my falleneness, my “lack”. I wonder if the church stopped trying to act “together” and really simply celebrated our fallenness intersecting with God, that more transformation would take place. And maybe more people who weren’t together would be drawn to a place like that. I’m wondering about that….
So I decided it was time to be baptized. In the middle of it all was an 11-year old girl that lives with me. My daughter. Grace. After talking to her about baptism, she wanted to participate. We set up a date two weeks from the time we spoke. It was the December baptism service. We signed up. But in the next two weeks, something happened.
The last two weeks were pretty busy. Grace had basketball practices, Wildfire, percussion practice and basketball tournaments the entire weekend. Micki was in her most chaotic time of the semester and her program, finishing her Master’s thesis. I was teaching at the church and at SAU. Mick and I were helping at Wildfire (5-6th grade mini-youth group). Time was not on our side. Before I knew it, it was a few days before baptism and we weren’t ready. First, we had to record a video testimony of 1-2 minutes. This was hard to collaborate and get done. I’ll save another post to comment on how silly I think it is to limit testimonies. I hadn’t had much time to really engage Grace to solidify things in her heart. I was feeling rushed.
I spoke to a trusted friend about this and they really helped me see a couple of themes come out:
- Celebration: We are a family that celebrates. It’s part of who we are. We hadn’t had time to plan a celebration. There was no pre or post celebration ready.
- Connection: We hadn’t had time to invite people to be there. Family, friends, etc.
- Importance: This is an incredibly important piece of the life of a believer. I think following through yesterday would have minimized the importance of the act. Both the way we do baptism at our church, and the lack of really following up and helping build anticipation with Gracie. I’ve been told that sometimes I over-think things. I’m okay doing it this time.
- Desire: I realized after being asked that if I could pick anyone to baptize me, it would be my dad. And he wasn’t even going to be able to make it.
I decided to not get baptized. And explain to Grace she could, but my reasonings for suggesting we wait. We talked for over an hour about stuff. She was disappointed, but understood how waiting would be a better option. We are going to be baptized together this summer at Sommerset Beach Campground during family camp in the lake. With family and friends present. With time to help Grace’s heart to be ready. With celebrations planned. We’re going to do it right. Now don’t get me wrong, there are many “right” ways to do this. The peace I have is knowing that we’re doing things the right way for us. You only do this one time. I want to make sure it’s done well.
On Another Note
So that’s it. I know it’s been a few months since some major writing here. The “high” is definitely worn off. The luster is gone. But I’m okay with that. I’m learning I don’t really want, or should desire to live in the extremes. At least too extreme. I always be emotional. Intense. But I don’t think I’m going to apologize for that. It’s how I’m made. My desire is to be conformed to the image of Christ. Allow Him to use how He made me for His purposes. I’ll do my best to write a few things I’ve been learning in the valley this fall in the next few weeks as Micki has graduated and my courses are finishing up. The dust is settling. It’s now time to reflect and press in deeper.