March 2, 1983.
It was a Wednesday. Two of the boys in my second grade class celebrated their 8th birthday (it was a small Christian school; I thought it odd that TWO boys shared a birthday). I’m sure we had some sort of celebration, as was the custom in those days.
After school, my mom was there, along with my father and stepmother. My grandparents were there, and my little brother. Probably an assortment of aunts and uncles. We all headed down the hall to where we met together on Sundays for worship (today it would be called the worship center, although it is now a gymnasium in that particular building).
I was being baptized.
I had met with the youth minister – he was also my school principal – after telling my mom I wanted to be baptized. He went over a little booklet with me: did I understand who God was? (yes, He created me) Did I understand what sin was? (yes, bad things I had done, and I was sorry for my sins, and I knew they separated me from Him) Did I know who Jesus was? (yes, God’s son) Did I know what Jesus had done? (yes, He died on the cross so that I don’t have to go to hell) Why did I want to be baptized? (I wanted to become a Christian – I understood that I was wrong – and I wanted to take communion because I knew it was something important to Jesus. Besides, Jesus said to be baptized.) He drew a picture of two cliffs, God on one side, me on the other. He connected them with a cross-shaped bridge. If you’ve been in the Christian church for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve seen it. He went through the “Roman Road” with me.
It seems so simple to me, now, thirty-three years later. But shouldn’t it really be so simple? I’m a sinner – you’re a sinner – and Jesus died for us.
I didn’t want to be baptized on Sunday, because I was petrified of being up in front of all those people (ironic, now, as I love to talk to groups of people about Jesus). I ended up in front of the congregation that next Sunday, anyway, repeating the confession of faith on the microphone (I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and I accept Him as my personal Lord and Savior). I almost threw up.
I wore my swimsuit under the white robe, and earplugs. I was petrified to put my face under water, but I knew Mr. H wouldn’t let me drown.
Nor would Jesus.
I was seven. I mean, how much of a sinner can you really be at seven?
But I will never forget the feeling I had when he lifted me out of that water (I now baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; buried with Christ in baptism, and raised to walk in a newness of life). I was new – clean – whole.
My grandparents gave me a necklace: a little gold cross with a teeny-tiny diamond chip. I still have it. My mom gave me my very own Bible. (I recently gave away that Bible; I sent it to an organization that gives Bibles to children in need. It was hard to part with, but I have a plethora of Bibles. Maybe another little girl will fall in love with the truth like I did.) My dad and stepmom gave me a gift, too; I think it was a play office type thing. I think we all went out for ice cream afterwards.
I don’t have a terribly “great” testimony. I started going to church when I was three years old. I was baptized at age seven. We were in the building every time the doors were open. The longest I’ve every gone without attending church is about six months. I had some doubts about God in my late teens/early twenties – but I never doubted Jesus. (I still can’t really explain that, either: for a while I didn’t believe in God, but I never quit believing in Jesus…)
Have I messed up in the past 33 years? Without a doubt. Daily, in fact. Do I ever struggle with what I believe and why I believe it? Yes. Was it simpler in 1982, as a seven year old? Absolutely. I think Jesus tells us to become like a child for a reason, for many reasons.
But, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” Paul tells us in Philippians 2:12. Do I believe I am saved? Absolutely. I can point to March 2, 1982, and say, “There. That day I was saved.” But do I still work out my salvation with fear and trembling? Every single day.
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:12-13