The great year of 2017 is gone, and I honestly don’t remember it starting. I’m back in school at my local jr. college being thrown back into the thick of things. Since I just spent all of my money on school supplies, dorm essentials, and move-in fees, I don’t have some new drink selection to share with the world. To be honest, I’m struggling to keep bottled water in stock. Sorry. It sucks for me too. Anyway, this post was actually a suggestion from my lovely mother, Katrina. So you have her to thank or scowl at; it was her idea. Enjoy.
Several things happen when you accidentally post your blog (and more importantly your tattoo blog post) on Facebook. One, family and friends blow up your phone after having read it and have many things to say about it (all of which has been nice so far). Two, your family demands to see your tattoo (thankfully, no sneers). Finally, you get suggestions for the next topic to write about. Everyone has an opinion and no one has reservations about sharing them. I’ve been asked to write about politics, religion, divorce, and several people just want me to throw shade (Yes, Kate, I’m looking at you). This particular topic was not so much suggested as asked by my mother. She wanted to know my thoughts on being baptised and joining a church, which is something I’ve neglected to do. So, in order to satisfy her curiosity and all of yours (I know you all are just dying to hear my thoughts on the subject), I’ve decided to answer her question with a blog post (Call me extra if you wish).
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28: 19-20
I’m 19 years old, and I’ve attended many different denominations of churches in the South. I grew up Presbyterian and attended my father’s church in my home town. When my parents divorced, I lived with my mother and we church hopped for a year or two but mainly attended Baptist churches; she had grown up in a Baptist church. When she married Ben, my stepdad, we started regularly attending his church, which is Baptist. My closest friends are Methodist and Pentecostal, so I’ve had the opportunity to visit those as well. Suffice to say, I’ve had a taste of several Christian denominations, and I have listened to many preachers preach their interpretation of the bible and its word. I’m neither negating any denomination nor am I stating that one is superior to the other. I’m a young Christian, and I do not possess that kind of authority and neither does anyone else. Suffice to say, I know a little bit about the bible, and I know it has much to say about baptism and joining a church family.
For those of you who don’t understand, being baptized and joining a church are both processes. In a Baptist church, you go forth at the end of service and tell the preacher your intentions. In my church, they then vote on it (No worries, I’ve never witnessed someone saying “no”), and you schedule your baptism for another day. You’re then welcomed to the church with the congregation giving out hugs and shaking you by the hand. When you are baptized, you either go into a baptistery in the church or to a nearby creek (It’s your choice). Whichever you choose, you’re taken out by the preacher/minister/pastor who reads some scripture, speaks some, and momentarily submerges you in water. You’re then officially recognized as a Christian and a member of that church. Obviously, the entire process of submerging you in water is symbolic. Sins aren’t being physically washed away as you go under. By accepting Jesus Christ as your savior, your sins have already been washed away. You’re just publicly sharing the fact with your church and the world.
Many have reasons why they have failed to join a church. Some do not attend regularly enough. Some feel that too much hypocrisy exists in the church (spoiler alert: there will be hypocrites everywhere you go). Some do not want the responsibility they associate with joining a church, and some don’t do it because they simply don’t want to. Regardless of the reason, it is something the bible commands Christians to do. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and he commanded us to be baptized as well. As I stated before, I have yet to be baptized and to join a church.
I became a Christian when I was in the 5th grade. I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart after many years of attending church. It all just clicked one day during a youth bible study. I don’t remember the day or the hour as some do, but I remember how much the pressure eased after that day. It was if I had finally understood something that was dangling in my face for so long. No, it does not make life magically easier. If anything, it makes it more difficult. Maintaining your Christian faith as the world comes crashing in like a dangerous, discouraging wave can be nearly impossible. Yes, it is my faith in Jesus that makes it bearable. I am no preacher, so it’s hard to explain all the things I’m still learning, but there is not a doubt in my mind that I’m a Christian. If I were not, I wouldn’t be able to handle all of the things life has thrown at me. With that being said, I was not immediately baptized as most new Christians are. Upon sharing my revelation to my family, my mother informed me of the next step: walking up the aisle Sunday morning and telling my preacher. This is where I almost passed out.
In the beginning, my reason for not being baptized was a poor excuse: I was too scared to walk up the aisle in front of everyone (Pathetic, I know). The hard part was over. I was a Christian; I had that inner peace that allowed me to go through life day in and day out knowing the Lord was with me. But this didn’t magically whisk away all my fears…like being in front of an entire congregation. I knew they wouldn’t devour me like hungry wolves. Heck, they’re there to support me and this huge decision I’ve made, but this didn’t abate my fears. So, I didn’t go up the aisle that Sunday…or the Sunday after that…or the Sunday after that (I think you get my point). I let weeks, months, even years slip by. Even now, I’ve yet to make that walk, but my reasons have changed significantly. It is no longer the fear of the crowd that keeps me rooted to my seat; it’s the fact that I want to walk up that aisle and ask for admittance to their family when I know that’s where I’m supposed to be.
Another quick church politics lesson: you are able to move your “letter” or membership from church to church. Let’s say you get married and attend a different church with your spouse. You would simply contact your old church, ask them to move your letter, and ask to be a part of your new church (so many procedures, I know!). You can move your letter as many times and places as you wish; you don’t have to just be getting married either. If you just find another church that feels more like home, you can still move your letter. There aren’t exactly limits to these kinds of things.
Back to me (it is my blog). I attend church with my family. It’s my parent’s church, and I go and sit with them on Sundays, but who’s to say that’s where I’ll always be. I’m in college and likely to move several times before finding a place and staying put, so why plant sturdy roots here only to wrench them out in a few months or years? I can’t think of a reason. It seems unfair to me and to a church to pledge myself a part of their family when I cannot promise I’ll always be there. To me, it seems selfish as well as foolish. (Almost) Always the logical one, I wish to wait. I want to wait until I know where I want to be and for how long. I want to know that this is my seat. This is my pew. This IS my church, and I’m going to stay. Yes, I know this may take a while. I’m 19 and don’t even know where I want to transfer to college in a few months. I don’t know where I want to work, and I surely don’t know where I want to live (semi-permanently). So, it’s going to be a while before I can answer where I want to go to church and when I want to call that church my family.
And before people blow up informing me that I can be baptized without joining the church if that is how I truly feel, please be rest assured that I’m aware of the fact. I know that if I so chose, I can separate these two things. I can ask to be baptized and put off becoming a member, but I don’t want to do that. One reason is because it’s not what’s normally done; it’s a bit of a taboo. Secondly, I don’t wish to add insult to injury by explaining to a preacher and his congregation that I don’t want to be recognized as a member of their church. That may sound selfish, but I think I would be acting selfishly to walk up the aisle next Sunday, be baptized, and leave shortly after, only to return for the occasional family event or holiday. Do you see where I’m coming from? Being baptized is a full-fledged church event. It can be emotional and it is a reason to be surrounded with family, whether they be blood relations or your church family (You see where I’m going with this?). The church family I want to share this experience with…I want them to be the ones who share the rest of my life with me as well. My wedding, marriage, children, and other important occurrences that will surely come up in my life. I want them to be close to Abby, the adult. Not necessarily Abby, so-and-so’s child, grandchild, niece, etc.
Regardless of my preferences, I do not think putting off this event is damnable. The whole process of baptism is a symbol. I’m symbolically washing my sins away. I’m symbolically being cleansed. Let me repeat that one more time for the people on the back pew: it. is. a. symbol. It’s a way to publicly profess my faith, not to prove myself a Christian. That 6 second dunk in the water isn’t what is going to get me to heaven. Those few words from the pastor preceding it won’t do the trick either. I have to make the decision of what I’m going to believe long before I go through the process of baptism. In saying that, I do not believe that if I die tonight, I will go to hell because I’ve yet to be baptised. I may not know all there is to know about Christianity (admit it, neither do you), but I can’t make myself believe that’s how it works. Like my faith in Jesus, I also have faith in the security of my soul. Although I have yet to be baptized and join a church, I’m self-assured that I’ll be a member of God’s heavenly congregation.
“and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”
1 Peter 3:21