I was baptized today.
Now don’t go running off! Just stop for a minute. This isn’t as religious of a post as you might think, but it will have some Jesus in it if that sort of thing freaks you out. No preaching here though, just my story. Hopefully you’ll stick around long enough anyway…
Like many of the people I know, I was baptized as a baby. Of course I don’t remember it as I was about a month old. It was at St. Lorenz Lutheran Church in Frankenmuth, MI. I would also end up attending the elementary school connected to that church. I had a lot of Jesus growing up. Almost too much. Having the fear of God put into you at any age is frightening. It’s a little damaging at 6.
As I entered junior high, we moved so we went to a new church and I started going to a public school. No more memorizing bible verses and stories. Whoo hooo! My flight from the church way of life was beginning. I was tired of having to do what seemed like extra work. I didn’t like the teasing that some kids would do to us private school kids either.
While I was in junior high I went through the process that Lutherans call Confirmation. I think we started in 7th grade and we would go to a Catechism class every week for almost 2 years. At the end of this process we would take a test, be assigned a bible verse and we would reaffirm our faith in God and Jesus.
To be honest? I was pretty much over Catechism class. It was on Saturdays and I loathed having to go. The only reason I would besides my mother making me was so I could play basketball in the gym they had at the church. I was completely burned out by the end and on the day of our big test, we were left alone for part of it and we cheated. Yes, I am the kind of asshole that cheats on their Catechism test.
My relationship with the church and God only got worse as I got into high school and “uh-oh!” started to discover things about myself that didn’t follow what was acceptable at our church. So not only was it horrible and painful enough trying to come to terms with my sexuality in general, now I’m going to have God super pissed at me. So by the end of high school when I wasn’t parentally bound to go to church anymore, I didn’t. I ran from it as far and as fast as I could.
The thing for me was that I didn’t need church. I still had a relationship with God. Rough and ragged as it was, I still had it and that was all I thought I needed. I didn’t want to deal with the judgement and I didn’t want ANYONE to try and change me at that point. Even God, I think.
I’m not going to go into the details of my spinout with life and God. It would be very long and probably quite boring. But let’sl just say that it did get ugly at times. I was getting in over my head with drugs and alcohol and I didn’t want to be saved. I didn’t think I needed to be, but Oh I wanted answers, damn it! I pulled into a cemetery one night so loaded I could hardly stumble. I sat there in the rain screaming out loud, “what do you want from me?” Cause, well, you know, a cemetery is a good place to go and have a fight with God, right?
When I moved to San Diego my relationship with my girlfriend I moved out to be with quickly dissolved and I was so alone. Besides just not knowing anyone here I felt like I was the farthest away from God I had ever been. Truly alone and I wasn’t sure how I was going to find him again, or if I even could??? I started to have doubts about Jesus and questions about how did other religions fit into the world. Maybe I should see what Buddhists do? I had NO idea anymore. Everything was lost.
At the first San Diego PRIDE parade I went to I noticed there were a few churches marching and had tables set up at the festival. I had become so cynical that my first reaction to them were “why are they here? They just want to change me!” So I looked at their information with my “I’ve got my eye on you” attitude. I was not about to be brain washed.
I woke up one Sunday morning. Tired. Hungover. Ready for that change. Ready to accept that my relationship with God was shitty. It’s not how I thought it would be and I needed help to repair it. I was kinda hoping the process would be a bit more like a 50,000 mile tune up and and oil change. But that is not how it went.
I found the closest one to my house because I’m that lazy. I walked into University Christian Church broken down and I tried to slip in with as little interaction as possible. I don’t know exactly what it was that triggered me, but I started bawling like a baby right before they introduced the new people and asked me to stand up so everyone could see who I was. Awesome! I felt like such a fool. But everyone there was so sweet and wanted to help. I knew they couldn’t really help me though. This was work I would need to do mostly on my own and it was going to be difficult. This was between me and God. So armed with a cup of coffee and some kleenex, I started attending every week. I realized that church was so much more than some bible verses and a sermon. It was the lessons, the community and the support. Everything started to change for me and I even met my wife there!
Once I was diagnosed of course, things changed again. I had buried the hatchet with all of my relationships that I had baggage with and it was so freeing. It was something that I should have done all along but of course didn’t until cancer pushed me into it. The only person on my list that I didn’t get around to doing, was God. I was still stuck feeling like I wasn’t worthy. And now UCC unfortunately started to have troubles. The problems were severe enough that we decided we needed to leave. It was starting to feel very scary because I really needed a strong faith community at this critical time in my life. Where were we going to find that?
Long story short we ended up finding that community. I felt like it was all very God lead in the process. We basically had lunch with Colby which started the ball rolling to where we are today.
I decided a number of years ago as I was repairing my relationship with God that I wanted to be baptized or something equivalent. I made this decision even before I was sick. I felt like I wanted to acknowledge everything as a consenting adult. I don’t think that cheating on my Confirmation exam proved that I was ready at 12 to make that kind of commitment.
I think that baptism is a beautiful act of acknowledgement and most people just accept that it’s just something that happens when your a baby. I did consider for a minute or two that it might be wrong of me to be baptized twice, but I honestly really don’t think so. I’m sure there are folks out there that will disagree with me and that’s OK. We will just disagree.
Once we had been attending Sojourn Grace Collective awhile and attending a study group midweek and once we started to really get to know the community I realized it was finally time. I felt like it was going to be a safe and loving space for me to do this and so I approached Colby about it. I wanted to do this in the Ocean. That was extremely important to me. I mean, come on, my last name means ocean! Thankfully he was OK with that.
I was given the chance to share my story in church this morning and after we all headed to the beach. We were at a spot near where Mary Jo proposed to me. That made it extra special. Colby said a few words and under I went! I must admit that on our way out into the water, Colby told me to make sure I kept my feet down so he would be able to help me back up. So in my head I kept telling myself “keep your feet down, keep your feet down, keep your feet down!” I was still able to listen to what Colby had to say before though.
I kept my feet down but my heart went up and out!
The whole experience was very freeing. I feel like I’ve finally mended my relationship with God and I can now move forward. That I can have a relationship that will be more full instead of feeling like I’m not worthy, and it feels amazing.
I just want to thank EVERYONE who’s walked this journey with me at any point in my life. Family, friends. The family I found at University Christian. And even though we are no longer attending, my friends there will always have a big place in my heart. I’d like to thank the wonderful friends we met while briefly attending Missiongathering. We wouldn’t be where we are today without spending some time with the great group of people there. And I especially want to thank everyone at Sojourn Grace Collective for being the incredibly loving and supportive faith community that I need at this point in my life. Everyone needs and deserves one at whatever point in their lives and I hope everyone finds theirs. I am so lucky and thankful that I did find mine. Thank you for allowing me to be the first one to be baptized at Sojourn Grace and thank you so much Colby for doing the dunking 😀
The video above is from a GoPro camera that I wore on my wrist. I thought it would be interesting to see and I wanted something recorded since we were going out into the water. I didn’t want to totally focus on it either though so it’s choppy and all over the place at times. I will be getting an actual video and pictures later that I will post when I get them.