The photos and the stories will come in time. But there is one particular story I have been eager to share before all the others.
(It’s a long one, so make yourself comfortable.)
On Sunday, October 10 (that’s right, it was 10/10/10) we all went to church on the shoreline in Kona at Living Stones Church. It is an old, beautiful, little church built of black lava stone and shaded by tropical trees that have been twisted and blown by the ocean wind so that they only grow in one direction, pointed away from the shore. Because the church building itself is small, they have speakers and screens set up outside the back door, along with rows of folding chairs in the shade.
When it was time for church to start, we chose to sit outside under the shade of a gorgeous, huge monkey pod tree, with our back to the sea wall, listening to the crashing waves and singing worship songs to the Creator of it all. They had the best “cry room” I have ever used, which was no room at all, but just a small patch of grass at the edge of the ocean where I stood with Adam when he got too fussy to sit with me. (Effective, too, as he was instantly mesmerized by the sound and sight of the water’s edge.)
The worship was powerful. The teaching was right on. The ability to be out in God’s creation while soaking in His presence was refreshing. And being with my family and our dear friends was wonderful.
Then came the end of the church service. But God was not done with me yet that morning.
At the end of his teaching, the associate pastor announced that they would be doing a baptism down at the beach following the service.
My heart pounded at the open invitation.
You see, I have considered myself a follower of Christ for my whole life. I grew up going to church every Sunday, I have gone to Christian schools, been a missionary in Africa, studied the Bible in depth, led worship, served in community outreach, taught Sunday School for children, and I am married to a leader in our church.
But I had never been baptized.
I have witnessed countless baptisms, including my husband’s. Every time it comes up, I find myself listing reasons why this would not be a good time, and convincing myself that maybe I will do it next time, or if I could just be a little more prepared... But if I am completely honest, the longer I have waited, the more it has become an issue of my own pride. I mean, what would people think of me? Would they think I was a new Christian when I’ve already done all this ‘good stuff’ with my life? Would I have to prove to people that this wasn’t a new concept to me, but just that I’ve done a really good job at procrastinating?
On this Sunday in Hawaii, as much as I wanted to resist yet again, I knew this was a perfect opportunity to finally respond in obedience.
I believe that my eternity in God’s presence has already been secured, and there is nothing that I can “add” to His grace and mercy. But I also believe that baptism is a symbol of obedience to Jesus and a way to follow the example he gave us (in Mark 1:9 or Luke 3:21 when he was baptized by
And I knew that for years I had been disobedient.
My heart was there, but the practical and rational side of me was still putting up a fight. I felt like I was having a discussion with God out there on the shoreline. For every reason I could try to come up with, I could virtually hear God telling me that this was the time to finally say yes to the opportunity to obey. It started with a line I had used on my children just the day before.
Delayed obedience is disobedience.
And then before I could even think the words “not this time,” I could tell He was already one step ahead of my thoughts.
So, what is your excuse this time?
“Well, I’m in Hawaii, far from my church and my friends and my pastor…”
You’re not doing it for them. You’re doing it for Me.
“I’m wearing a dress.”
The pastor just said he forgot his swimsuit and he’ll be out in the water in his jeans.
“What will I do with the kids?”
Your husband is here, and so am I. Do you think I’m not powerful enough to have them behave for a few minutes? And speaking of your kids, what will you tell them when one day they ask to be baptized and want to hear your story?
“I will do it then. We’ll get baptized together.”
Delayed obedience is disobedience.
It’s time. Today is the day.
“But I don’t want to make everyone change their plans.”
Then I found out that Brian, our friend who had completed the Ironman the day before, had just told the pastor that he wanted to be baptized.
We were all heading down to the beach anyway.
All my excuses were gone. Only my pride stood in the way.
We got down to the beach and John grabbed the pastor before he got to the water’s edge. I was able to introduce myself, give him a brief version of my story, and for the first time ever I admitted out loud that my pride has kept me from this step of obedience. He joyfully agreed to baptize me.
I passed Adam off to John, took off my flip-flops, and waded into the crystal clear Pacific water wearing my bright coral Sunday dress.
After watching a few others go before me, I wanted to make sure that if I was going to do this, I wanted to do it all the way. No dry spots. Full immersion. As the two pastors spoke a blessing over me and tipped me back, I leaned my head back nice and far and I felt the warm salty ocean water completely wash over me.
“That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus.”
(Romans 6:4, The Message)
A symbol and a declaration of what God has already done in me: He has given me life in Christ!
It’s not always easy, but it feels so good to be on the right side of obedience.
Truly, it could not have been a more beautiful spot to have the memory of this event. Sharing the opportunity and the day with our friend Brian made it even sweeter.
And the icing on the cake was the appearance of a massive, graceful sea turtle (the only one I saw during our whole stay in Hawaii) that swam up into the shallow water where we stood and lingered there a while.
I didn’t need to have a huge audience or the presence of everyone who is important in my life. I didn’t have to give a big speech about who I am and why I had waited so long. I didn’t need to make any more excuses. All I needed was to follow Jesus example and obey.
And it ended up being one of the highlights of my ten days in Hawaii.