Yesterday was my nine-year anniversary of being baptized, finally deciding to commit my life to God and His way. And yet, while pondering this while driving into work yesterday on a beautiful fall day, I rear-ended a woman driving an Oldsmobile. On a day that was supposed to be sober and encouraging, the fender-bender gave my heart a terrible mixture of embarrassment, fright, alarm, worry and guilt even though there were no injuries. Even after nine years, I have a lot more to learn.
I Was Not Ready – But You Never Are
Many a minister has said making the decision to commit your life to God through baptism is THE most important decision you will ever make in your life. I have talked to many people about how they are approaching baptism, and almost universally there is this thought that you need to be ‘ready’ – you need a sign or omen that lets you know you are ready to take the literal plunge. I guess it would be similar to the things we look at to determine whether he or she is the ‘right’ one for marriage, which has been called the 2nd most important decision you will make in your life.
Was it the wreck that woke me up – or was it just an exclamation point at the end of an idea I had been thinking about anyway? I am still a mess of a man – a sinner and someone who messes up way too often. I was certainly not ready at 20 – I didn’t even really understand what I was getting into. But compared to my older mentors that have seen and gone through many more things than I, I still do not understand what I decided to do nine years ago. Yesterday I was looking at a picture on my iPhone at a red light in traffic, an incredibly stupid thing to do, and I let my foot off the brake, and coasted right into my new friend’s bumper. Makes me ask, am I even ready to drive?
Yes I Can Drive, But Hindsight is 20/20
Many people use this phrase to describe how it seems always easier to see past events than current ones. I can now see that frankly I am not a good driver – especially compared to my sister Mindy. And even regarding baptism, when I did decide to commit my life to God, I can now see I was extremely naïve about how I approached it.
I decided that I wanted to be baptized after literally talking with myself one afternoon in the summer when I was 20. I was outside in the backyard of my parent’s house, charging the dying battery of the family’s riding lawn mower in the hot Tennessee sun. As I do today as I am preparing for possible scenarios that might happen, I was imagining a situation where I was trying to get one of my friends to go to church with me. And then my imaginary friend/self asks this of me about why I believe what I believe:
“How do I know you really believe in it if you haven’t really committed your life to it through baptism?” almost assuming that I might be hypocritical.
“Um …” I reply sheepishly … realizing that I did not have a good answer to this very logical train of thought.
Talking to Myself?
Granted, I was talking to myself – but even in a made up scenario, I had no answer to a very good question that I posed to myself. Did I not believe what I talked to my friends about? What was stopping me from making a commitment? Could I not put my money where my mouth was? As with driving, am I taking responsibility for what I know and when I make mistakes?
This turned into my main motivation for getting baptized – and now looking back, though a good starting motivation, should not have been my whole motivation. Hindsight is 20/20 and I didn’t understand the extreme need to comprehend that I was a sinner and needed God’s forgiveness. On my baptism day nine years ago, as I stood in the pool, I remember being completely surprised that my minister asked me right before he dunked me, “Have you asked God for repentance of all of your sins.” I said yes, but I said it really out of embarrassment because I realized at that moment I had not really considered repentance. I made my decision out of a knowledge that I needed to make a commitment – but that is only half the battle. Baptism is step three after first making a commitment and second asking forgiveness of your sins and repenting (turning away) from them.
I see a lot better now then what I did nine years ago. And so will you.
So … Now What?
Baptism is a serious thought … something that IS a really big deal – but through it, gives you the ‘helper’ that Jesus promised to his followers. Jesus spoke about how God was the one that called people (John 6:44), but they had to respond. If any of this talk makes sense, if any of this actually pricks your heart, then maybe you are being called. Maybe you ought to talk to your family and trusted mentors … it may involve your pastor or a local elder.
If you are being called by God, this is one of the most exciting things that could happen. And it just so happens to be one of the first steps to understanding so many more puzzles in life.
I just hope you don’t have many car wrecks on the way there.