This past Sunday on 11 July 2010, I was baptized.
The church was full as we stood up for the final hymn. I was dressed in a pink top, skirt, and black sandals. The bottom edge of the skirt matched my glasses - speckled with shiny purple and rose colors. I took my testimony in hand behind the bulletin and happily began to sing, "Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending, Once for favored sinners slain; Thousand thousand saints attending..."
When we reached the final stanza, the pianist trailed off and left the Body sing a cappella. I peeked out around to see if the lady at the other end of the pew was ready. She looked over, looked forward, and the two of us stepped out of the pew and walked down to the front of the church. Around us, the glorious strains of the hymn rang the space: "Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee, High on Thine eternal throne..." As I rounded the front of the church, I felt as though I were no longer walking, but being carried along by the song of angels. How sweet to hear a preview of the saints' eternal sacrifice of praise! "O come quickly! Allelujah! Come Lord, come!"
As the church finished, six of us were standing in the front of the church behind the preacher. He opened with a few remarks about baptism and then we each went up to the pulpit to describe how God led us to Himself and saved us. When the preacher looked back to me, I stepped up to the microphone and, legs unsteady under me, introduced myself and began to share my testimony.
"I used to feel that the world 'out there' was bad, but that I, the local pastor's daughter, was different. I felt pretty good about myself; but I could tell that something was wrong. I struggled with direction and satisfaction in my life, but didn't realize that my need was far greater than that."
My voice was uneven, my heart was pounding so hard that I thought I must have been shaking, and I was afraid to let my glance linger anywhere for even a moment lest I loose my rhythm. I continued.
"Finally, one day at Gettysburg College, I dusted off my Bible, read through I and II Kings, and found that I couldn't get enough of this book. A few months later, I came across a parable in Luke 18 that was addressed to me: "[Jesus told this parable] to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others". The parable teaches that the humble,repentant sinner will be declared righteous by God, but that the 'self-righteous' person will not be. I realized for the first time that I was that self-righteous person who assumed that God accepted me because I was religious in the eyes of the world. I realized that I was a sinner, and therefore I needed Salvation as badly as everyone else. But, because Jesus died and rose again, my sin could be forgiven. By God's grace, I repented of my sin and placed my faith in Jesus Christ for this gift of new life.
"Since coming to faith, God has been working in me to help me overcome my selfishness and fear. He is teaching me what it means to be good in His eyes: worshiping Him the Creator rather than created things, loving my neighbor as myself, and continually turning away from sin and trusting in Christ. I'm here today to obey His command to make a profession of my faith and to be baptized."
With that, I turned and took a place in the line, leaning the side of my left knee against a chair to steady my unsteady legs. I can't say why I was so nervous, since I was very thankful to God for this day and for the opportunity to testify of God's work in me.
After everybody had finished sharing their testimonies, we went out the door, down the stairs, and changed into white robes. Then, one by one, we went down in the water to be baptized. Since I was second in line, I arrived just in time. The lady who had sat in the same pew motioned to me and said, "Can I take your glasses?"
"Oh yeah!" I knew I would forget to leave them downstairs. I handed them to her in a rush, and then stepped down into the water. It was warm. The pastor declared the baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then under the water I went! And in another moment, I was pulled up out of the water again with a smile. I was laid under the water as if being laid down to rest in the tomb, and raised again as a symbol of the new life given by God to those who turn away from sin and turn to God. As Romans 6:4 says, "...we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."
I have to admit that I was curious to see if I would perceive anything unusual or special when I was baptized. I did realize one thing when I was under the water - I was blowing bubbles out of my nose. The very thought made me both embarrassed and 'myself' :) Upon further reflection, it's interesting that I really only sensed myself and the water at that time. I didn't see the congregation or the pastor. It was just me. Just me and the clear, pure water. "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).
Praise God for the gift of eternal life that He offers freely by the blood of Jesus Christ!