I figured that the next post I wrote here would be a collection of thoughts on Sola Scriptura, since that’s something I’ve thought about quite a bit in the time since I accidentally broke my big news to my folks.
But that’s not what I’m thinking about today.
Today has been one of the hard days of this journey. One of the confusing ones where I wonder if it really is God that I’m hearing – if that’s really Him whispering and urging me forward towards joining the church.
I got an email today that said that “they” had decided that my baptism is invalid, and I would need to be baptized again. This coming just a day after I’d been assured that everything was fine and dandy on the baptism front was disheartening, and the more I sat with it, the more disheartening it became.
I was baptized when I was seventeen, just weeks before my eighteenth birthday, in a rented hot tub located positioned in a sunny corner of the backyard of a church family’s acreage. My Young Life leader came and prayed blessings over my walk with God. She gave me a candle that still sits on my bookshelf – I light it every so often to remind me of that day. I spoke to a gathered church that day about what it meant for me to be taking this step. I talked about the journey with Christ that I’d walked – a journey that even then had included questions, wrestling matches with God, and all sorts of lessons in how to make surrender a bit less bloody of a process. I talked about surviving a church split, learning at ten years old that Christians could be hypocrites too, and about discovering somewhere along the way that I needed to climb off the fence of my wrestling years, and choose to either follow or not. I chose to follow him.
My dad was the presiding pastor, and the church practiced not only adult baptism, but full immersion. With a voice that betrayed his emotions just a bit, Dad lowered me under the water, baptizing me in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, then raising me back up and wrapping me in a hug as the friends and church family that had gathered applauded.
I’ve been thinking about that day so many years ago today. It was July 2001, twelve years and a bit ago. And while the years that followed were marked by many more significant moments with Christ – moments of healing and of conversion – it was that baptism that started it all.
The email that I got this afternoon that declared that baptism invalid was cheery – almost celebratory – suggesting that it was wonderful that I could add baptism to the list of new things that I would experience at the Easter vigil, in joining the church, that this is an exciting development. It was all I could do to keep from weeping.
I’m not sure I can do that again. Not sure that I can submit myself to baptism and declare to the world that that morning twelve years ago wasn’t valid. That that moment when I was lowered down into the water symbolizing death, and then lifted up to new life didn’t mean anything. I’m not sure I could face telling my dad that that moment isn’t valid, that I’m going to repeat that moment too. It feels like something deep and meaningful is being stolen from my journey in the suggestion that I be baptized again – that in declaring that baptism invalid, we are also declaring the last twelve, or really, the last thirty years of my journey with Christ to also be invalid – to be meaningless.
When I read the email more closely, I began to suspect that there is perhaps some miscommunication in play. That my problem might stem from the fact that I come from a very small non-denominational church, with a low profile in the city, that thus wouldn’t be on a list of churches that the local diocese recognizes as providing valid baptisms. It means more hunting things down, more emailing, more meetings for me, to hopefully get it straightened out, but I’m going to try.
And in the meantime, as I spent the afternoon wrestling with this, I recognized something – in the past I’ve minimized that moment, arguing that I chose baptism more out of necessity than true commitment. And yet, as the arrows of that email buried themselves in my heart today, I knew – that is a day in my life with Christ that holds deep significance. Perhaps the most significance – it was the day that I publicly announced that I intended to spend a lifetime pursing holiness.
I don’t know where this will end. Hopefully in discovering that all this mess really is a miscommunication. I hope that that’s where it ends, because it would require a great deal of thought and prayer for me to move forward with a decision to be baptized again, and at this point I’m just not sure that’s something I could submit to.
So, it was a down sort of day. A hard one in this journey, but one that makes me thankful too. The hard parts of today reintroduced me to parts of my heart and journey that I hadn’t considered in quite some time, and what I found there is something to be grateful for.
I was texting with two dear friends as I shared this latest news, and the biggest laugh I got all day came when one of them suggested the following:
Tell them, “I am a theologically astute individual who was present when I was baptized. If it hadn’t been Trinitarian, I’d have jumped out of that water!”
Have I mentioned lately that I’m thankful for friends who let me process long distance by text message, and then help me laugh at the process, even when it hurts like crazy? I’m really thankful for those friends. (And tonight I’m really thankful for Sarah and Kirsten in particular!)