Today I was baptized for, technically, the second time in my life.
I felt the need to write this post to talk about what convicted me to request this, partially because it was an online testimony that placed it on my heart. So, being a bit vulnerable here, and laying it all on the table!
I was exposed to the story of Christ as a very young child, as I began going to church nursery school when I was two years old. There isn’t a time that I can recall where I ever doubted this story as being true. Growing up it was simply a fact; Jesus came, died, and was resurrected. I accepted these facts with very little question, and learned how to pray, what hymns to sing, and so forth. Going into my teen years however, I very much wanted to have an understanding of the Bible and all of its promises, but did not feel like I had a grasp of what exactly people meant when they talked about its display of sacrifice and unconditional love.
I differ from some Christians in that I cannot actually pinpoint a day where I gave my life over to Christ. Part of me almost envies those testimonies that really grab people’s attention, as mine in comparison seems rather ordinary. You know what I am talking about? “I had been using crack for 10 years, been in and out of rehab, and was in the middle of my weekly atheist coffee group when I felt a calling from Christ”. Yet that is a very small part of me, as I know that how dramatic my story is makes no difference to God.
For me though it was more of an extended learning process as to what everything I learned in Sunday school really meant; that it meant not just going to church out of habit or because it was “the right thing to do”, but to actually develop a passion for the scripture and all that it teaches. Around the time I turned 14, I began experiencing some health issues that were very stressful at the time. Doctors were pretty inconclusive as to what was going on, and it felt like the pain would never go away. Hindsight, a great portion of the problem was stress that kept piling up that I didn’t know how to cope with. I would ask God why He was putting me through this pain, feeling like I had done something wrong to be feeling like that. I kept thinking “I’m a good person, for the most part. Why is this happening to me?” This is where I really feel that my journey to the point I am now began.
During this time I began reading the Bible more often, searching for a solution. I spent a lot of time alone, and wasn’t sure where to start, but kept reading the New Testament looking for answers. Even though I did not surrender all of my trust to the Lord at that time, it was then that my dependency on His word began to develop.
Fast forward two years later, when I began having more health problems. I had been feeling better for the most part, but suddenly I began having digestive issues that no one could explain. Over the next three years, I lost about 20+ pounds, could barely keep any food down, and had countless tests done. I can’t accurately describe my emotions during this time, and I won’t go into much specific detail over the blog. The medications doctors tried to put me on had bad side effects, and I found myself becoming depressed. Along with simply being malnourished from not eating, I lost much of what little physical strength I had. It got to the point where it would be genuinely painful when someone would even playfully poke me.
Finally, in 2008, I saw a different doctor who was able to determine that I had a rare condition called gastroparesis, which literally means that my stomach is partially paralyzed (it empties about 25 percent slower than the average person). Few people have heard of it, and it is currently not possible to treat or cure. While this is a subject that I could go on about for much longer, my point is that it is something that has shaped my life in many ways. I have had to put my trust in God to lead me through nutritional and exercise plans instead of medicine to take care of me. Don’t get me wrong, I think medicine is a wonderful thing, just for me this was a path that has been able to strengthen my reliance in things unseen.
During this time with my health, I had been dating a boy in high school. At this time unknowingly, I was putting far too much pressure on his shoulders. I expected a great deal of support, and expected that everything would magically work out. In the middle of my freshman year of college, after some on and off again stints, we broke up for good. Again I turned into this pretty pathetic mess and felt like I must have done something wrong since God was not making the problems go away. It is clear now that God has taken these experiences and turned them into something that glorifies Him. Most recently, for example, I led a small group discussion on body image with the girls of my church’s youth group. In that sense, I am incredibly grateful for everything that I went through. While I would not wish it for someone, I am much more prepared than I would have been otherwise to help others deal with their own insecurities and hardships.
I would say the low point for me was in the spring of 2009. It was at that time that I knew something had to change, and clearly whatever I had been doing to cope hadn’t really been working, at least, not for very long. I joined the UNC’s Christian sorority that semester where, for the first time, I met other girls who wanted to serve God just as much as I did. They were friendly, open, and accepting of me, and I found that I looked forward to going to the weekly worship services. I began to grow in my faith again, and started feeling God’s love and forgiveness wash over me. Everything was slowly starting to get better.
Someone once said “It’s always darkest before the dawn” (not trying to quote a pop song here). Since that moment freshman year, my life has become less about me and my wants and more about Christ. I found that I am at my happiest when I am glorifying God through public service. In the last five to six years countless things have happened to continuously reaffirm my faith, and have led to a greater understanding of just how amazing and important Christ’s sacrifice was. It is from these experiences in my past that I have been able to connect and empathize with women and peers I meet. When people twice my age have come seeking my advice, it has been through the grace of the Holy Spirit within me that I have been able to help them.
Ephesians 2:9-10 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” It has been purely by the grace of God that I have been brought into His kingdom, and not a day goes by that I am not reminded of how much I need His grace, as I could never hope to earn that kind of unconditional love on my own. My mistakes humbled and weakened my heart enough so that I could no longer stubbornly avoid God’s will for me. I was broken down so that God could build me up, and when He did build me, He built a stronger, better version of myself to mold into His will. He was with me in relationships that proved to be less than healthy. He was with me when my sorority had the opportunity to acquire a million dollar house and the project was assigned to me as both housing financial director. And He has been by my side as I have tried to find ways to spread the gospel using whatever spiritual gifts I have, and has given me some of the truest friends I could ever ask for along the way.
One of the most important things I have learned is that in order to really let God have control of your life, you have to pray for the wisdom to let go and let Him in. For years I would desire a close relationship with Him, but when I prayed I would ask for the things I wanted. I did not pray for Him to have His way with my life, but instead for things to go the way I wanted them to. And even if I got what I wanted, it still didn’t work in the end. God knows what is best even if it isn’t clear at the time, and offering your life to Him as a living sacrifice is actually the most freeing and liberating thing you can ever do. One of my favorite quotes is by CS Lewis: “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” Although I have had many good things happen to me the first twenty-something years of my life, and I am incredibly grateful, I consider my story to be an example this, and each year truly has gotten better than the last.
So, with all of this said, the reason I decided to become baptized again is because I wanted to make the decision when I was mature enough to know what I was doing, and to show that Christ is Lord of my life. While I grew up sort of under the impression that if I was baptized again it wouldn’t really count, since I had already had one as a baby, I now see that that was a misimpression. While my baptism today was not in close proximity to the time when I really invited Christ into my life, it is a symbolic representation of the spiritual growth and journey that I have been on, and will continue to go through for as long as I am alive. I am so grateful for the people who came today: my real family (parents), “second family” (Lara, Ari and Grace), and church family (Pastor David and his family), as well as a supportive and loving family from Calvary, were there for encouragement. The process of being baptized was something that gave me a great sense of peace. I don’t really know how to put it into words. Hopefully I will be able to one day. Despite the fact that there were lots of happy families there swimming, enjoying the gorgeous weather at the lake, I have to say I didn’t actually really notice them when this was happening. It was a very personal experience, and I am so thankful beyond words that it happened.
Acts 2:38 “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”