During the summers, when school was out, my mama and I would stay up incredibly late (like, until the sun came up) watching Nic-at-Nite and other TV shows. She would make nachos (using Doritos–don’t knock it til you tried it) and drink a Diet Coke, while I took part in the nightly dance of trying to get some of both for myself.
On one of these extremely late night/mornings, I asked, “Mama, how does someone actually get to heaven?” She answered in the usual Southern Baptist way. I don’t remember all of it, but I do know it ended with describing the act of praying the “Sinner’s Prayer”.
I said, “I want to do that!”
Mama said we could make an appointment to talk to someone at our church so they could make sure I knew what I was doing, and then I could pray that prayer and be baptized.
I ran down the hallways, incredibly excited, and woke up my daddy, only an hour or so from waking up for work. I shook him and said, “Daddy! Daddy! I’m going to get saved!”
It was hard to go to sleep that night.
In the weeks ahead, I met with our pastor’s wife who walked me through the usual Evangelical Gospel message. She asked me a bunch of questions to make sure I “got it”. We then “prayed the prayer” together in an empty church pew after a Sunday evening service.
I was saved. A few weeks later, I got baptized.
Recently, I came across the below picture of my “Baptism Cake” my family had for me to celebrate. I learned that the early church would celebrate “Baptism Birthdays” with even more celebration than one’s Biological Birthday. With my Baptism date having been rediscovered, I decided to begin celebrating this day each year.
Today is that day.
I recently realized I can’t remember a time for which the reality of God was not an ever-present reality for me. I understand theologically that I was born in sin and all that, but in hindsight, there’s not been a time when the “coin dropped” in some sort of ultimate sense. There have been many crucial moments in my journey with God where the Divine reality has made more sense, gained clarity, or got burrowed even more deeply in my soul and life.
But for as long as I can remember, I have been God’s, and God has been mine.
And yet, in a real way, my baptism was when I really became God’s child. I was marked by God’s promise and call on my life in those waters of Baptism. God had been the reality in which I moved and lived and had my being, but in my Baptism, God moved towards me and marked me as his own. The Spirit put a mark on me that is true regardless of my sin, doubt, and rebellion.
Famously, whenever Martin Luther was plagued by his inner darkness and doubts, he was known to say to himself repeatedly, “baptizatus sum”, or “I am baptized.”
Why? Because it is an objective thing outside of my own world of anxiety and subjectivity that can remind me whose family I belong–what my soul’s “family name” is: Christian. And with that, Christ’s life, death, and resurrection became the facts that are most true about who I am. I am his and he is mine.
I was birthed into the family of God on this day 21 years ago. (I guess this means I can “spiritually drink” now?) Happy Baptism Birthday to me!