I’m almost a week late with this post, but in this instance I truly do believe that better is late than never. Because the first 3 chapters of Searching For Sunday are so incredible that I could not just let the week go by without a quick write up. (Reminder if you need a brief introduction into what this book is about you can go read my co-leader Tika’s post on it right here.)
There are a few things that stuck out to me in these first 3 chapters. Rachel recounts her own baptism experience as a child and how she really expected to feel different…holier after it. But her reality was that she felt pretty much the same. She has since met people who were baptized when they were older and described it as one of the most powerful moments of their lives. She felt almost left out; her experience was so not that experience…couldn’t she just do it again now? She didn’t love her church growing up. Couldn’t she get a do over of sorts?
Her experience struck a deep chord with me. I have very fond memories of the church I grew up in, but I identify strongly with her lackluster baptism “feeling”. I was baptized at 9 and to be totally honest I really don’t remember it. I remember the Bible my parents gave me afterwards. (My first grown up one.) I remember the long blue robe. I remember a bunch of my friends did it at the same time as me. But the actual baptism? I don’t remember it at all. I don’t remember why I even did it. I have a sneaking suspicion I did it because I was a church kid born and raised and once you were old enough you got baptized. Period.
Now as an adult I have watched countless people get baptized at my church. I cry every baptism Sunday. The joy on the people’s faces; their certainty in God’s love for them and their willingness to proclaim that love back to him overwhelms me. And each time I get a little twinge. A tiny wish that I could also get a do over. I feel like I understand what baptism means more now than I did then.
There’s a story Rachel shares after she talks about wanting her own “do over” baptism. She talks about a friend of hers who grew up and was baptized in a fundamentalist Church of Christ church. She later converted to Lutheranism and asked her mentor there to rebaptize her. I’m quoting the book here.
“Her mentor wisely declined, reminding her that an act of God cannot be undone or redone. Though she had left the company and the way of her first church, she couldn’t blot them out of her spiritual genealogy. They were still her family.” Rachel continues “Jesus has this odd habit of allowing ordinary, screwed-up people to introduce him, and so it was ordinary, screwed-up people who first told me I was a beloved child of God, who first called me Christian.”
Tika and I asked our life group was there ever a time you thought an event would make you a better person? And I think that question gets at the core of my sometimes desire for a “do over” in my baptism. But here’s the catch. I get a “do over” baptism every day. Rachel calls it living in baptism every day. “It’s just death and resurrection over and over again”
I may not have fully realized it, but at nine years old I made a public declaration of how I would privately live my life from that moment on. Every morning I wake up and die to myself. I put my selfish desires to the side. I put my shame and guilt over my imperfections aside. I put my worries and anxieties aside. I put them under the water and come back up in new life reminding myself of the words of my father
“This is my daughter, in her I am well pleased.”
I would love to hear any of my readers’ thoughts and experiences with baptism. Have you ever wanted a “do over” in some area of your faith? What was your baptism like? What do you think it means to live in baptism every day?