I had run out the back door and jumped in my car getting ready for the occasionally brutal 45-minute drive to my church, 15 minutes before church began. I was a hot mess. I debated even going to the service at all. I turned my key, started my car, and began the trek. I turned on the Livestream feed of the sermon about 15 minutes into my drive because I didn’t want to feel clueless when I made it to church halfway through service. Within minutes, I realized I had made a mistake. I had forgotten it was baptism night, and I had told myself that I wasn’t getting baptized tonight, or anytime soon.
Right before graduating from Mercy Multiplied, (read more about that at http://mercymultiplied.com/2016/10/mallory-2016-mercy-graduate/ ) I had desperately wanted to be baptized. I had felt like I was in such a deep, intimate place in my relationship with Christ. I had been reading my bible every single day for months, I prayed often and meditated on God’s Word. I was in an environment designed to fully immerse me in Christ’s Love. But I was still struggling a lot with legalism. I sometimes saw all of those good things I did as good things that I had to do, to earn love and favor from God, or even from myself. I didn’t (and still sometimes don’t) understand the concept of a love so radical that God would give it to me even when I don’t deserve it. So I tried to earn a love that had already been given to me. I hoped that I was becoming a good, picture perfect Christian. I joked a couple of times that I was totally ready to be “dunked”. I had made a decision (fully on my own) that God wanted me to be baptized then, and I was ready for him to do his part of “our ” plan. The church that all of us Mercy Residents attended announced a baptism service… scheduled for the day after I graduated the program and moved back home. I was upset that God hadn’t gotten on board for my picture perfect baptism, in the church that I became a Christian at, surrounded by the residents and staff who had witnessed and helped me through my journey. I was checking all my little “good Christian” marks off, but that one remained empty. And so the desire in my heart to be baptized dwindled until I had mostly forgotten it.
I kept the Livestream going in my car as I drove to Church, even though the knowledge that it was a baptism service made me consider turning around and just spending the night at home. But, I was already halfway to church, and I figured turning around would have been a waste of gas. I listened to the service halfheartedly, regretting that I wasn’t able to get dunked back when I wasn’t struggling in life as much and I had wanted to get baptized on my own terms. I had decided that now I wasn’t really eligible for this round of baptisms. I was holding onto a deeply ingrained lie in my mind about my Christianity and baptism in particular.
I had some really incorrect, warped doctrine that I probably had heard some version of somewhere and then twisted and molded it to fit my often legalistic mind.
I had decided that baptism was essentially a very public sign to everyone that you have all your crap together, and that you’ve pretty much got this thing figured out. I saw it as a public declaration that Christ was with you, which to me sounded like a whole lot of pressure to be saintly and holy. I wasn’t feeling remotely saintly, or even a bit holy. I felt like me, a sinner, who is still struggling with a lot of major life issues. This baptism service was not an option for me because I was still struggling. I wanted to be all put together and perfect before I got baptized. essentially, I wanted to do for myself what only God could do for me, before I let him do it for me. (Confusing much???)
“I’m definitely not ready to be baptized, I’m not good enough” I repeated to myself, believing the lies I was saying as I sat in my car in the parking lot in front of the church, 30 minutes after service had begun. I sat and put makeup on for another 15 minutes, still watching the tiny streaming video of the service because it was unthinkable for me to go into the church building without my full face of makeup. I watched the streaming video of this beautiful service, just a few feet outside of where it was happening, adamantly telling myself that I wasn’t ready for that. “I’m definitely not getting baptized tonight”, I told myself. Once I felt my face looked somewhat presentable, I left the safety of my car and entered the church venue. I found a seat as close to the very back as I could. I watched as the brave souls who had signed up for the baptism service go up to the inflatable pool and get dunked for Jesus. I sort of halfheartedly worshiped from my spot in the back of the room. I was safe back there, and I just kept telling myself that I was definitely not getting baptized tonight because I didn’t have my life looking the way I wanted it to look yet. The amazing worship drew me in closer, and I suddenly found myself towards the middle of the room. (I’m a total full-body wandering worshipper) Just then, Pastor Alex said that she felt there were other people in the room who needed to be baptized tonight and that they would let other people, who had not signed up to be dunked this service, be baptized. I literally said out loud to myself “I’m definitely not getting baptized tonight”. I slowly meandered up to the front of the venue, just to get a better look and see if I knew anyone deciding to get spontaneously dunked. There was water spilling everywhere, and a whole throng of people in line who were asking to be put in the water wearing the clothing that they had worn to church. Everyone coming out of the little inflatable pool looked sopping wet, and I told myself “I am definitely not getting baptized tonight”. However, looking at all of the water and wet clothes, I decided to make myself useful. I had done a whole bunch of laundry at my parent’s house before church, and so coincidentally had tons of clothing in the back of my car. I decided to run out to my car and grab some dark clothing for those who were spontaneously deciding to get baptized so they would be spared the horror of having to drive home with soggy britches. I told myself that these clothes were for others, and certainly not me because I was definitely not getting baptized tonight. I came back from my car, dark bundle of clothes in hand, and quickly headed up to the front with the intent to offer the clothes to those in line… And that’s when God began working on me.
I started to think about why I had decided that I was definitely not going to get baptized tonight and the absolute absurdity of everything just hit me full force. The true meaning of baptism was instantly and amazingly revealed to me. I saw that the “newness of life” that I feared so much was not in any way supposed to be an indicator of how “good” of a Christian I was. I saw how ridiculous it was for me to expect that Jesus wouldn’t want me to proclaim his name while I still sinned because he chose to literally die a brutal and horrifying death on the cross for me while I still sinned. I saw baptism as a literal burial of my old sinful nature, and a beautiful way to claim the inheritance I now have as a daughter of God. I was hit by the powerful nature of baptism, not just as a declaration of my faith, but as a catalyst for my much-needed breakthrough. I saw how baptism had been twisted in my mind to give the devil a legalistic stronghold, and I decided that I wouldn’t allow him to trap me like that any longer.
It was a heart Revival.
Somehow, while praising God for the revelation he had given me about baptism, I had managed to get myself tangled in the very front of the queue of those ready to be baptized. I was holding a bundle of clothing that I intended for others to wear, and I was wearing dark clothing. I looked the part. It was an easy enough mistake for the woman organizing the last-minute baptisms to make. She did not know how many times I had told myself that I was unworthy of this, she didn’t know how many times I had told myself that I was definitely not getting baptized tonight. She just looked right at me, and simply asked: “Are you ready to be baptized now?” I thought for a second, looked up at her, and told her
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.