I am redeemed. I am made new. I am born again. I am perfect in His eyes, though I am so broken in this world. I am in need, and I am provided for. I am no longer consumed by the sin that I may still commit.
I have been saved, set free, and I continue to be molded and shaped and sharpened by the hands of Christ living in my fragile heart.
Those truths bring tears to my eyes even years after I gave my life to Christ for the first time. I was in fifth grade and didn’t understand much of what a life following my Savior looked like, but I gave Him my life because the words my church leaders used to describe that life sounded pretty darn sweet. Despite my incomplete understanding, I still pursued Christ.
In tenth grade, my church held a baptism ceremony and the time felt right for me to participate, as my way of demonstrating a slightly more complete understanding of Christ's sacrifice for me and my desire for His presence throughout other areas of my life. My best friend at the time and I were dunked together and it was an awesome experience, but looking back, I realize my confidence and happiness stemmed, in part, out of affirmation from my family, church leaders, and peers.
Not many people know that, so I've been asked why, as a now devout Christian, I'm getting re-baptized. Answering that question is easy when I'm answering to Christ because I know that he sees my heart and its flaws and its sparkles and its desires and its overwhelmed slur of gratitude, but no one else has eyes for that. So, to answer that question for you, I'm getting re-baptized because I've taken a million of my own steps this way and that way and everywhere else in between since tenth grade. I've lead myself to the peaks of superficially, instantly satisfying "high's" and I've tumbled down to empty, lonely, dangerously terrifying "low's". I've damaged my body, and I've failed to show it the precious love Christ has shown me.
As I stood in front of the supportive crowd of family and friends today, I thought about my walk with Christ and tried my best to squeeze everything into two or three sentences. Though I didn't actually share (the crowd swelled as each minute passed and my nerves went along with it) with everyone, here's something along the lines of what I would've said, had the fear of public speaking not overwhelmed me and the tears of joy not choked me:
"Hi, I'm Haley! I'm just so excited to be here today. To make a long story short - umm, I've wrestled with an eating disorder for the past three years, and for anyone who has themselves or knows someone else who has, you can understand me when I say I was searching for something that I still can't pin down. The tinier the size I shrunk into, the heavier the weight crushing me felt, the more intense the pressure became to find whatever it was I'd been searching for. I exhausted myself and couldn't run away from God and towards this selfish desire for something unidentifiable any longer. So, here I am. I'm saying YES to God and promising to never jump out of His arms - the arms that lifted the burdensome weight from my shoulders and cradled me, comforted me, and assured me that I'm the most beautiful version of the woman He'd drawn of me long before my parents ever conceived me. Here I am, promising Christ my whole heart for my whole life. I've learned not to trust myself, so I'm placing my life into His mighty hands and embracing the tears and rapid-beating heart as I watch them gently, safely close together."
But, like I said, the crowd was overwhelming and this baptism isn't about my sharing my story with them. It's about me admitting my weaknesses to Christ, letting Him wash me clean of my sins, and saying "I do" to His invitation to eternally hold His mighty hands.
I walked towards the water, squeezing the arm of one of my best friends who decided at the last minute to be re-baptized, too. We braced ourselves for the cold water, but my heart beat and palms sweat and throat swelled for another reason. These butterflies were butterflies on steroids - the kind I imagine to invade my stomach on my wedding day. I use that analogy lightly, though, because I hope that nothing ever feels this good. I spotted a pair of men with open arms, ready to dunk someone, so I treaded through the freezing cold water towards them. I think they asked my name and introduced themselves, but it's all a blur now. They grabbed my hands and placed one of theirs on each of my shoulders, giving me some directions and praying over me. A few sobs made themselves heard and pulled the corners of my lips into a smile as I sent whispers of grateful excitement up to God. One of the men contribute the last words I can remember hearing before I plugged my nose and felt the piercing shock of the cold water, full of the Holy Spirit's unmistakable presence, "... in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!"
I came up, caught my breath and ran to one of my best friends, who embraced me in her arms with a warm towel. She didn't let me go as she told me how proud she was, and I let out a few more tears and "thank you's", unable to really form any complete sentences.
That was the best moment of my entire life.
I saw a few hundred people today, some familiar faces and some I couldn't recognize, yet I felt no presence stronger than God's. I submerged myself in who-knows-how-cold-water, yet I'd cleanse myself like that for Christ a million and one more times.
My prayer now is that Christ will work in the hearts of those maybe considering baptism or re-baptism, that maybe He'll use some of these words in some way, shape, or form. If you're considering baptism, I'm praying for you and the Holy Spirit is, too. For some, it's a leap of faith, trusting God's will. For others, it's an act of repentance, saying "no" to himself and "yes" to God. For others still, it's both A and B. It's all of the above.
It's breath-taking and heart-pounding. It's too good for words, so seek the experience for yourself :)