Tuesday, May 3, 2016
I'm going to be baptized on Mother's Day. Part of the preparations include sharing my testimony. This will be the long version; I'll cut it down to a reasonable length for the ceremony.
As a small child, my family attended a Presbyterian church. Sometimes my sister and I went to Sunday school. I remember wearing dresses, learning the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments, playing on the playground, seeing Bible stories enacted on flannelgraphs (I'm dating myself here, so included a link for reference) and the smell of wax melting when they made multi-colored crayons from the leftover bits. (They were way ahead of the times, Pinterest.)
Sometimes we went to the main service with my parents. I remember the cushioned pews in the enormous sanctuary, beautiful stained glass windows, signing the attendance book, passing the collection plate and communion plates, singing hymns - my favorite part - and my dad dozing off. And at Easter, they'd bring in a live lamb.
My mom had been raised Methodist and my dad had been raised Baptist. He had had negative experiences in the church as a child, and only went to appease my mom who didn't want us growing up as heathens. My parents flipped houses, so we moved a lot when I was growing up - 13 houses for me. After we moved to a different suburb that was further away from that church, we went less and less often, until we became Chreasters. By the time I was in 5th grade, we didn't even go on Christmas and Easter anymore.
When I started 8th grade, I was blessed to form my circle of lifelong best friends. It included six girls whose faiths were Nazarene, Catholic, Mormon and non-denominational. I began attending church with all of them. It helped me to learn more about my faith, ask questions about religions and investigate what I really believed.
Two years later, at a retreat with two of those friends, I answered an alter call and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I love how my church I attend now explains it. I believe:
God is real.
I am wrong.
God is right.
Jesus is life.
Life is better
because I believe.
At the time, it didn't change anything in my life too dramatically. My parents gave me a Bible for Christmas which I read in its entirety a couple of times as is evidenced by the well-worn red leather cover. I continued praying and attending church with my friends.
When I moved away to college, I ended up going to a Methodist church occasionally. It was ok, but I never felt like it was a place I belonged.
I came back to Kansas City when I graduated and began "church shopping" with two of my best friends. We ended up attending an Assemblies of God church for awhile. It was out of my comfort zone - speaking in tongues, a lot of "Amens!" and dramatics. But the sermons were incredible. One that stuck with me was about tithing. I'd been very cynical about tithing and hearing about churches who misused the money, and ministers who stole it, so I gave a little bit but more as a token, than anything else. But the pastor gave a sermon that got me to understand it differently (that's a long post for another day). I also made some new friends there through which I began attending a Bible study at a local coffee shop.
After a year or so, I decided to move on to a different church, but kept attending the Bible study. The new church I found was non-denominational. It was the first place I felt plugged in and really a part of. I became part of the 20-somethings small group, volunteered in the food pantry, nursery and with the cleaning crew, joined activities like caroling, etc. It was during this time that my relationship with God was at its strongest. I felt His presence in my daily life and found myself in constant prayer - in the shower, in the car, just going about my day. There was a time when I felt as if Jesus was sitting in the corner of my room hanging out with me.
When my husband and I got married, I moved into his house which was about 30 minutes away from my church home. I kept going for a few months, but it was difficult. Eventually I stopped going. I began attending the Presbyterian church I'd gone to as a child on occasion as it was nearby, but slowly the constant presence of the Lord faded.
A couple of years later, we moved to another suburb. We had a 2-year-old and one on the way. After our second daughter turned 1, I started looking for a church nearby. The first time we attended, I knew Cedar Ridge was our new church home. Their mission statement is Love God, Love People, Serve the World. And they DO it. They don't sit and talk about what Christians should do, they go out and do it. Our pastor is one of the founders of What If The Church.
The last six years have been tumultuous for my family. My husband and I found out I was pregnant on Christmas Eve one year, and the next week, we both found out we were going to be laid off. That pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and moved into a facility. My father sold their house and moved into an apartment and then had a heart attack and spent two weeks in the hospital. We had a third child; being a mother is greatest blessing I've ever experienced, but it's also full of stress and incredibly exhausting. My husband has been working on his master's degree off and on since our oldest was born. I've let myself be distracted by these worldly things and lost my heavenward focus. But every time something terrible happened, God was there anyway. And I felt a peace and a joy in the midst of whatever calamity we were facing.
And as I find to be true more often than not, every time I read the Scriptures, something speaks to me in a new way. Lately, verses about baptism have caught my attention. And I would think, I should really get baptized. But. But I have a lot on my plate. But I need to lose weight before I get dunked in front of the whole church. But DH might have to go out of town for work for 6 months. The list goes on.
A few months ago, one of my good friends at church was baptized, and it felt like God nudging me. She has a lot going on, too, you know. And then last week, it hit me what my real issue was: I was afraid to be baptized. Not because I was ashamed of acknowledging Jesus as my Lord and Savior, but because I didn't want Him to be ashamed of me. As soon as I get it together and stop sinning, I'll be worthy of baptism. I relate closely to Paul on a daily basis: "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." (Rom 7:15) I'm a hypocrite.
But I'm never going to have it all together. And God knows that. He wants us to be authentic; it's ok not to be ok. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matt 11:28)
So I'm done waiting for that day to come when I'm good enough. It's time to take the plunge.
Posted by Not Just Another Jennifer at 9:19 PM