My parents divorced when I was young. We lived with my mother in MN and my father lived in Kansas. My father was a Deacon at the church that we attended in the summers when we visited him. His mother, my grandmother, was one of the founding members. They were both very active with the church and I loved the time that I spent there. I loved the summer camp that we occasionally spent time at and the youth group activities.
I recall the summer I turned 13. I could not wait to go back to Kansas to attend church that summer. I had been thinking a lot about being baptized and I wanted to do it there. It was that church that felt like a home to me. All of the members there loved and respected my family and treated me like a I belonged there. I wanted nothing more than to be baptized there and truly become a member.
My father arranged for me to speak with the pastor and we decided that the following Sunday, I would go forward during the call to be baptized (which was done at the end of every service). Sunday came, I nervously waited until the end of the message and then I went forward as everyone was saying a prayer and took my place near that pastor. After all of the routine questions, I was sent to my side of the baptismal to change in the small changing room. After changing into a robe for baptism, I opened my door to step out and, to my surprise, my father was waiting for me in the baptismal. The pastor and he had talked and wanted to surprise me and have my father perform my baptism. There I was, in the front of the entire congregation ready to be baptized by my father…. A pedophile.
Of course, being the pillar of the church that he was, no one knew that. I played along and proceeded with my baptism. I smiled for pictures afterward and went to a celebratory lunch. It was done. The moment I had been waiting months for came and went and I could not remember any of it. I lost my excitement for the church that summer. Maybe it was my age. Maybe it was that event. I am not sure.
As I became an adult, got married and had children of my own, church was never really an important place for me. I went when I was expected to and not more than that. If we were visiting family for a holiday, we would attend because it was easier than dealing with why I did not want to go. The mention of baptism was always the start of recalling painful childhood memories. It is hard to believe how many times a pastor can mention baptism during one church service.
About 5 years ago, I was really settled into the fact that I had found a church that nurtured my new found relationship with God. I was really growing in my faith. I was working through the process of forgiveness. But again, those pastors can really mention baptism a lot in a message series. I started to think a lot about my own baptism. One night, I was exchanging text messages with a friend from my community group and I was just moved to open up to her. I really wanted to have a do over. I wanted a new baptism. I wanted that excitement back. But did that mean that I did not trust that God had done His part the first time? Did that mean that I was allowing my father to have power over God? I could not find any scriptures that would say, “If you were baptized by someone that abused you, it is ok to have a do over”. My very kind friend (a gift from God) very lovingly encouraged me to speak to Pastor Greg.
I pondered a couple of weeks longer and then I finally made the call. I set up an appointment to visit with Pastor Greg. As the day approached, I was terrified of the conversation that was going to take place. I worried about what people would think? What would the “Pastor” think if he knew about my childhood, that I allowed a baptism to happen that I should have stopped, that I turned my back on God after that day and even to this day that I was not trusting God that we really had a “deal”? I never imagined how God would help me through what I thought would be the hardest conversation I would ever have. Pastor Greg listened, empathized, prayed with me and assured me that God would be ok with me having a new memory to replace the one that had happened so long ago.
After confiding in the women in my community group, I scheduled a private baptism on a Saturday afternoon with Pastor Greg, my husband and the women in my group (The Greatest Book Club Ever!). Ironically, when we arrived at the church, the “candle lady” followed us into the auditorium and asked if she could stay and watch. Well, I could not say no so she was welcomed as well.
Following my very tearful baptism, I was climbing out of the water when Pastor Greg laughingly said…”Well I am already wet…anyone else?” What do you know…that “candle lady” raised her hand and said…Me please! She stepped down those stairs and joined me that day in baptism (I love you!). Well…as she climbed those stairs, Greg said one more time…”Anyone else?’ and there went another hand. Another beautiful sister (I love you too!) stepped down those stairs. That pattern continued the next day on baptism Sunday and through the next week. God moved several people that week to step forward and publically confess their faith in Jesus.
Now when I hear the word baptism during a message, my heart seriously swells with joy and I am so grateful for my new “memory”. I now feel that my public confession of faith was real, I was fully present and I truly meant that I accept Jesus Christ as my savior and fully believe he is the Son of God.