Grant pestered me, so I’m writing. This may or may not be a good thing. I may or may not have anything useful or interesting to say. As it happens I think I do, here’s hoping you do too.
Last weekend I got baptised at church. For some of you this may take some explanation, for others of you it may be quite clear why I did. So I’ll try and aim in the middle and explain it a bit, but not much. “Baptism is an outward sign of an inward change” is a good place to start. Baptism is where a person who has already become a Christian goes through a process in the light what has already happened. For me, this involved climbing into a birthing pool, being pushed under water briefly and then getting out and being prayed for. It also involved me getting up on stage and talking to the 700 or so people present about why I was doing it. (See here and here for pictures of me doing that).
Anyway, I think I can remember what I said pretty much, so here goes…
I grew up in a family that went to church, and my first real encounter with God was when I was 13 and I went to a youth camp called Crossfire. It was the first time I met people who talked about “Jesus” instead of just “God”, which somehow seemed more personal to me. It was also the first place I heard talk of the “Holy Spirit” in anything other than a vague sense. It was the first time I prayed and asked for the Holy Spirit to be involved in my life. So that’s the time I say I became a Christian.
That was the first landmark in my Christian life, the second was 5 years later, having yo-yo’d from feeling really close to God to feeling very far from God depending on whether I was at a big Christian event or not, what is sometimes called “event-hopping”. Anyway, when I was 18 I went to work for a small Christian media company called Viz-A-Viz in Essex. It was an incredibly tough year for me – mentally, physically and spiritually. It is only in hindsight that I can see what God was doing that year; up to that point I had been quite a selfish Christian – very much focussed on how I felt and what I wanted – and less focussed on God and on other people. That was the wrong way round, and God sorted that out a bit that year.
The third landmark was the end my first year at uni. I had been a fairly typical student in my first year, going out a lot, drinking a lot and the like. Now, don’t worry, this isn’t a “I became a Christian, gave up drinking and now am boring” story… Well at least I hope not – you’ll have to ask my friends if they think I’m boring. Anyway, at the end of the year, knowing I hadn’t really lived my first year the way God would have intended, I went away to Soul Survivor‘s Message 2000 in Manchester. I was challenged there, by God, to give up drinking FOR A YEAR! I accepted and fairly soon after realised that I was going away on holiday to Kos for a clubbing holiday with 10 friends. I wondered if I could maybe start it after the holiday… but no, the challenge stood and so I went through with it. I had an amazing holiday away… I began to realise that God had made me the way I was and that I didn’t need something fake on top of that to make people like me, that my confidence should be in God and not alcohol. That was where God started impressing on me my identity in Him.
Skip forward another couple of years to my 5th landmark – a year out I did after uni. I worked for an organisation called The Navigators, working with students in Nottingham. It was a fantastic year. I had the priviledge of being involved in a couple of people becoming Christians – God did so much and I did so little, but it was great to be there “for the ride”. This was when I realised that, despite my first experience of full-time Christian work, you could do something like that and not only enjoy it, but be good at it! God was showing me that he can work through me, not just through those around me.
So then another year or so later and maybe my 6th landmark – baptism. I was christened as a child and one reason I’m being baptised now is that I have wondered for years whether it was something I should do as an adult. I have come to the conclusion that it is and I feel that this is a good time to do it, I feel God prompting me to do it now. Another reason is that I’m fed up thinking about it every time I come to a baptism service, so I’m getting it over and done with so I can stop thinking about it. But the final, and most significant reason I’m getting baptised is this; a few weeks a go I was praying about this with some friends in small group and one of them told me to think of this like “a child sat on his father’s knee, with his father asking him, ‘Do you want to do this?'” The answer to that is “yes”, so here I am, doing it.
So there you go – that’s pretty much what I said, hope you find it interesting. I’m sure there was something else interesting I was going to say, but I can’t remember now. I’ll end by just saying that:
I’M QUARTER OF A CENTURY OLD ON WEDNESDAY!