last week i was reflecting on the date, august ninth, two thousand ten… 

i saw a tweet where someone (more clever & witty than i) suggested doing something special at 5:06:07 of 08/09/10…  or at 11:12:13… oh, the fun of numbers and dates… looking forward to 10/10/10? 

thirty-five years earlier on 08/09/75, i stood on the southern shore of lake sammamish at sambica – a christian camp in the pacific northwest – waiting to be baptized.  it was a typical seattle area summer day – rainy. pastor med broussard joked that we were covering both bases that day – sprinkling & immersion (preacher humor…you gotta love it). 

i had been going to church for as long as i could remember and really wanted to take communion, but had been told i couldn’t until i had been baptized.  three years earlier, i had “decided to follow jesus” about halfway through our church’s showing of the film a thief in the night (an early seventies, rapture/apocalyptic film where someone who doesn’t take their faith as seriously as she should have gets “left behind.” (whenever i hear an electric razor buzzing in a bathroom i still look up into the sky…) 

at that point in my church going “career” i understood that people who accepted jesus into their hearts went to heaven, and people who didn’t, like bad king saul, annanias & sapphira, and the king who built the big golden statue of himself and threw daniel into the lion’s den were all going to hell (being a five-year-old in a baptist church, i had learned my eschatology early on). despite all that, up to the evening we watched the film, hell was more attractive to me than the alternative of accepting jesus during sunday school. 

Are we already in the rapture?

This Film Scared the Hell out of a 5 yr old...

(in subsequent years, having advised children’s ministries leaders, sunday school teachers, and having taught 5 year olds in sunday school myself, i know what a joy it is when you have the privilege to witness and see the pieces fit together for a kid who understands what it means to make a decision to follow christ.  but as an adult, you can’t always comprehend the logic of a kid who has only been around for 60 months.) 

in my 5yr old class at crossroads baptist church, somewhere in between singing (10 & 9, 8 & 7, 6 & 5 & 4, call upon the savior while you may…) and games (Who can be the first to find and read…psalm 35:16?!), an invitation would be given to accept jesus into your heart, and if you were to say the prayer and accept jesus right there, our teacher (a woman of great faith and even greater girth) would instantaneously turn into a crying, blubbery mess of running mascara, bolt  from her seat as fast as she could and give you a hug that would encapsulate your entire 5 year old body.  just the thought of her waddling over to me as fast as she could was more frightening to me than the prospect of an eternity separated from our creator. 

so that night, watching the film, i recognized that, as my pal rusty and i munched on popcorn, if the rapture happened during the film, my mom & dad would be taken up into glory with jesus, but i’d be left in the auditorium. i leaned over to rusty and asked if he’d accepted jesus and received “the hug” – he said he had done the deed at home a few weeks prior…and no hug. 

wow, so rusty would be gone too and i’d be trying to figure out who was going to drive me home, who would make me dinner, take me to soccer practice, etc… i realized i would be alone.  its not hot, but that seemed pretty hellish to me at the time.  i had no choice but to ask god to come into my life.  as a 5yr old, i recognized god was after me and that i would be praying this at some point, and since my sunday school teacher was nowhere in sight, i felt it was safe to move ahead with the prayer. i looked up at the top of the auditorium and said the prayer i’d memorized (i’d heard it so many times) and waited for a flash, a feeling of warmth, of peace, of…anything… but the film played on, and i watched with less apprehension because i wouldn’t have to worry about the ride home… 

i wiped my rain-soaked forehead and i was up next in line to be immersed in the lake sammamish water and wondered exactly what exactly being baptized meant – i had already accepted jesus (so i had the pending rapture covered) so was it just so i could have communion (super doctrine right there, “only people who have been baptized could partake of the lord’s supper”)? was it so i could be like jesus and begin my ministry (as a 5-year-old living in the seattle area, i had my work cut out for me)? or was it to be first in line for the snacks after the baptism service was over? my almost 9-year-old mind was really chewing on this because i understood that jesus was led into the wilderness, and was tempted by the devil after his baptism.  was i going to be fed rocks? rushed up to the spire of the church?  nah, they didn’t do that kind of stuff any more did they? but wait, this wasn’t a river, its a lake, is this going to take? 

as i came up out of the water in pastor med’s arms, i was relieved not to see a dove descending (between the raindrops i saw my seattle seahawks quarterback hero – jim zorn there, who shook my hand and said, “god bless you.” still no flashes, no warmth, no physical sensation other than the fact that i had done it.  but my mind was racing. 

35 years later, i recall the bits and pieces of that day – at times it seems a bit surreal – baptizing an 8-year-old who saw this as the only way to get a wafer and an oz of grape juice at church one sunday a month – at other times it seems amazing that i understood that jesus began his ministry after his baptism and that god declared his pleasure in his son’s act . and at all times it gives me grace for others and the mixed bag of motives we humans carry into just about every situation and decision we make. thank you god for helping me to see the depth and process there, and not discounting it as some stupid thing i did as a kid and didn’t understand ( i get why people get re-baptized, but believe it isn’t us doing the work in baptism & see that its part of the process of god’s call on our lives, but that’s a whole other blog entry).  

then i look at my boys and wonder what stories they’ll share about how their parents’ church messed with their heads and how god’s grace met them in their story in the midst of it all and they chose to follow him… 8/16/10…jre