‘He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.’ – Psalm 103:12(NLT)
I pressed the bell and waited to hear the buzzer signifying that door had been unlocked. I had no idea what to expect.
A couple of weeks earlier I’d sat in the back row in Church and turned the white card that read ‘water baptism’ over and over again in my hand. It was not the first time I was seeing or turning this card over in my hand, several times when it had been part of the place cards on the seats, I had given it a good look and placed it right back down after the service. This time however, it held my attention much longer. The regular questions stormed my mind again. Was this necessary? I mean, I had been ‘baptized’ as a baby. Was this any different? Would it really change anything? Was it even real? At the bottom of the card it also said one could get further information about baptism in general. I mean, why not? I would just find out some more information and ditch it if it didn’t sound ok.
At this point, the seemingly cool, calm and collected me was literally nowhere to be found. The girl who sat with sunken shoulders and eyes filled with worry and fear had replaced her quite easily. And now this girl, her hands flailing wildly, legs kicking madly, everything in her life spinning out of control, her whole inner being falling fast in a whirlwind of emptiness, sought hope. Something or someone to restore some order to the chaos that she seemed to have either created or welcomed into her life. The baptism which had been explained as a public declaration of faith in Christ seemed like a good place to take a chance. If it worked, maybe Christ would forgive her for all her failure and give her a chance to make amends perhaps, but if it didn’t work, well perhaps then all hope truly was lost for her.
Within the week, I had a chat over coffee on about as many ins and outs of the topic as could come to my mind, and I had a lot of questions. To these I got answers with biblical backing and questions that made me think about it. Uh Oh, I WAS doing this. The thought both scared and attempted to lighten the weight on my heart. Did hoping it worked matter here? ‘Oh, I hope it works’, I thought again and yet again over the days that followed. Another teaching session where more of my endless questions were answered and a deeper delving into the word for what this represented followed. I WAS doing this.
It wasn’t the cool, calm and collected me that turned the door handle and entered after the buzzing sound came. This was the uncertain and very scared girl who had had thoughts of probably rescheduling or abandoning the whole idea altogether just days and hours before. The wonderful faces that met her when she opened the apartment door seemed however to allay some of the worry and reassure her. It WAS going to be okay.
Calvary covers it all
My sin and shame
Don’t count anymore
All praise to the one who has ransomed my soul
Calvary covers it all
The song played softly in the background and not a single word of the powerful message was missed as she made her way to what would signify the grave of her old self. It WAS really happening. The fearful thoughts came back, ‘what if the water goes up the wrong way and you don’t breathe again? You could choke and die, you know?’. But she was here, surrounded by friends and people cheering her every step on, there was no way she was backing out now. In she climbed. This was once and for all, her old self, hurt, confused, full of guilt, shame, self-doubt and regret for poor choices made earlier, that self, was being buried, here, today and she would emerge reborn, a new person. Death. Life. Old. New. Her thoughts dwelled on these as she was plunged under. She couldn’t wait. And up she came, still a little uncertain if something more dramatic should have happened. This WAS it! She HAD done it. It was done.
Death. Life. Old. New.
My friend, who I’d invited and to whom all this was new, asked a question that brought me out of the cycle of thoughts, ‘so, how do you feel?’. The first answer that came to mind was, ‘wet’, but I looked at her and said, ‘great!’. And though the more prominent feeling was nervousness about how this ‘new life’ was going to play out, I did feel great. Before I had gone under, I had cried out deep within me to the one who this was all about, ‘save me, make me new’. There definitely had not been any ‘BLITZBLANK’ dazzling moment. And even as I changed into dry clothes, I realized the fear, pain, self- doubt and guilt lingered, the enemy’s voice steadily going on about how insignificant that was and how I knew I was still me right. I had heard it way to often, I knew what it always said, but today I refused to agree. Whether it looked like it or not, today I had chosen, chosen to die to the old and be resurrected to the new. I would hold on to that declaration over the accusation.
Over the months that followed, I would quickly come to realize that, although the death to the old self had happened immediately I had gone under the water and I had indeed come up right away as a new being, the fruits of this new life, would take time to show. Like a seed that falls to the ground has to die first IN the ground, sprout a new seedling and after days or weeks emerge from the ground, and then after, be nourished, grow bigger and stronger and THEN bear fruits, I would only look back weeks, months and years down the line and realize where the new seedling had sprouted, where the stem had increased in height and girth, where leaves and flowers had bloomed, and where some of the fruits had appeared and matured enough to be enjoyed by others and yet still where I had been pruned and trimmed when fruits where not showing or dead bark prevented growth.
‘I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives.’ – John 12:24 (NLT)
Did anything dramatic happen at the time the discouraged and scared girl was plunged under the water? Perhaps, but, not to her naked eye or that of any of the people standing around. Was the water she went under the reason for any change that had happened or would happen afterwards? Not exactly. What she knows without a doubt however is that, something definitely died. In choosing to accept the forgiveness that God offered her and in publicly declaring that stand, something had taken root in her that made her look at things and choose differently. Not all at once and sometimes without even realizing it, somethings that appealed to her earlier, didn’t anymore. Some lingered longer than others, other adamantly refused to be parted with no matter how hard she tried and here, she came to experience the power of the holy spirit in setting us free from the things we can never on our own free ourselves of. Soon the life in the shadows wasn’t appealing anymore, she had received power to life openly and in freedom, where the light and warmth reach her and she reflects it beautifully for all to see.
She had not found just something to hold on to, even better, when she had taken the step forward in faith, doubts and all, something better than she could have ever imagined had taken a hold of her. God Himself had walked in, right in the middle of her mess and spoken life. And live, she did.
The joy that fills my heart whenever I see someone taking this same step is next to none. It is a bold statement. A declaration. Out with the old, in with the new. It is death! Yes! But what’s even better, it is Resurrection. Dead, but raised to a new life in Jesus Christ. It is the bold declaration to the whole universe, IT IS NO LONGER I WHO LIVES, BUT CHRIST WHO LIVES IN ME. I get truly moved to tears watching as they are plunged under and rise to NEW LIFE, thanking God, always reminded of that one special bath that changed my life.
‘And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.’ – Hebrews 8: 12 (NLT)
Songs: I try to add a song that reminds me of the events and seasons written about in the posts, there are too many for this particular one, but these easily come to mind.
Calvary – Hillsong Worship
Selah – I Got Saved
Elevation Worship – O Come To The Alter