Last Sunday, I was baptized for the second time. As a young child, I was sprinkled in baptism, even as I had my children sprinkled in baptism. But after joining my current church a few months ago, the pastor had me over to his home to talk about why the church believes in immersion. They consider themselves a New Testament church, and they believe that if Christ was immersed, then we should be also. It’s simply a matter of obedience.
I didn’t take well to the idea at first. Mentally, I fought, kicked and screamed. “Come on!,” I thought. This comes down to semantics, and splitting hairs on ideology. But at the very base of my response was vanity, pure and simple. I didn’t want to be drenched in front of the church. The pastor asked me when I wanted to be baptized. I wanted to say “I’m not ready,” and “I’ll think about it,” but I felt as though God was calling me to obedience.
The Lord spoke to my heart. He said, “You’ve always wanted a pastor who knows you, and cares about you, and who will lead you. Now I’ve given him to you. Will you let him lead you? And if you can’t let him lead you, how can I bring a man into your life so he can lead you?”
Dang. There’s no arguing with the Lord. “OK…” I said reluctantly. “I want to be baptized when my daughter is home from school at Christmas.” At the time, Christmas was a couple of months away, and I would have time to chew on it. I was hoping the Lord would give me some revelation that would make my heart accepting and joyous about the situation.
A month or so later, I met the man I’m now dating. This threw another wrench into the situation, because he’s a new Christian, and I knew it was important for him to be present. Now he would see me drenched. I still didn’t have the revelation from the Lord. I was still dreading it. But I wrote my testimony to be read before the church. And I still prayed that the Lord would make my heart right, and that He would be glorified.
That Sunday morning, I was nervous. My boyfriend showed up and drove me and the girls to church, and I carried in my huge bag of stuff so I could put myself back together after my drenching. I wish I could say I went into that baptismal with a right heart. That angels sang. That fireworks went off. That while underwater for the nanosecond, I spent 7 minutes in heaven. But none of that occurred. The water was cold, and I was drenched and then walked down the center aisle dripping with a towel around me, toward the bathroom.
Sometimes obedience is simply that: obedience. God doesn’t swoop down and make it glorious. But He smiles, because He knows we have done it anyway. Later when I prayed to the Lord, I said something like, “Well, nothing happened.” And He said, “Oh yes it did. You simply couldn’t see or hear it.”
Good to know. Perhaps angels sang words something like, “Glory to God! Gwenn obeyed!” Perhaps the voice of God boomed, “This is my stubborn, vain child who has obeyed Me even when she didn’t want to, and I love her, just as she is.” I feel a little ashamed that I wasn’t more spiritual about it. That my vanity was my overriding emotion, right up to the immersion.
I praise God that He loves me anyway. And that He will bless me for my obedience, even if I did it without a right heart. Obedience always proceeds blessings. It’s the bending of our will to His that makes us pliable in His hands, and makes us useful for His purposes.
And being the God that He is, on my baptism day, He reached into my heart, and went past the big wad of fear and vanity, and took hold of the tiny glimmering flame of faith that lay behind it that said, “Lord, use this for your glory in some way, even if my heart isn’t right.”
And God took from that flame, and it is burning somewhere else today, perhaps in my boyfriend’s heart, perhaps in someone else who was present last Sunday. And it is burning ever brighter as He adds His glory to it.
Obedience. It’s the tiny flame that can set the world on fire.