Today, for the second time in fifty-three years, I was baptized. It’s not that I don’t think what took place when I was five wasn’t good enough; it’s just that I really didn’t understand what I was doing at the time. I didn’t understand that what I was declaring was unconditional and long-term.
What I was most aware of at the time was the side glances I would get when Mama and Sister Kay would sneak and give me and Bobby (Sister Kay’s son) the leftover communion “wine” and crackers. The older women, Grandma included, would openly show their disapproval. These looks would be met with those of defiance on Mama and Kay’s faces. But if you think about it, why were there leftover crackers and juice anyway? You’d think, since they had the same job month after month, they would have done a better job of planning, wouldn’t you?
In the fifty-three years since my first baptism, I managed to survive my parent’s violent marriage and then their divorce. I went on to graduate high school, move from my hometown and then later move from Indiana to Florida to become a full-time college student. It was there that I met and married my now ex-husband and was blessed to be a mother the one and only time.
As a single mother, I usually managed to stay employed; sometimes holding two or three jobs. I also managed to acquire a graduate degree. It’s true, I rode the bus for much of that time and never really had any savings to speak of, but I did my best to make sure my daughter had what she needed. Recently, she confided in me that while she understood why I was always working, she lived with a sense of loneliness that may have been alleviated by my presence in her life.
Now, I started off writing about my baptism and my confession of faith. But please don’t read that I lived a perfect, never did any wrong, kind of life. No. In fact, while attending church most Sunday’s, I continued to live what some would say was the life of a back slider. Men were my drug of choice. Yet, in the late 1990’s something changed. Upon saying that I desired to be used by God to preach and teach the gospel, the once plentiful pond of manly distraction dried up. I mean bone-dry!
A few years after that, not only was I not holding multiple jobs, I was having a hard time finding one job that could pay most of the bills. This was just a precursor of the past 10 years. During that time, I maintained full-time employment for only seven years. I often describe the past two decade as continuous struggle. Even when employed, I struggled to pay rent, make car payments and buy groceries. Yes, there were seasons when things were paid on time. I even managed to get another degree. But for the most part, I’ve stayed in struggle mode.
I struggled for 19 years to transform a side-hustle into a main source of income. I reached outward rather than retreat inward in search of meaning and worth. This led to years of feedback of how I was a “deep well,” a “community advocate” and an agent of change and healing. As I listened to “them,” I would also look at my bank account and conclude that I was an untapped resource. Still, I struggled to remain relevant, hoping reality would catch up with my dreams.
While facing homelessness, my then 16-year old daughter asked what was the use of securing education only to be unemployed and on the streets? I didn’t have an answer. I only had Scriptures to quote. She then looked at me and asked, “What’s the use in believing in a God that would allow us to wind up homeless?” I didn’t attempt another answer. Thankfully, our answer came the next day through monetary donations that allowed us to return to our apartment. The next month, I began a job that lasted eight years until I left it voluntarily.
See, while I labored to answer my daughter the night we slept on a stranger’s couch, I continued to believe that God was a God who gave. What I didn’t waiver on was my belief that God loved me and my daughter so much that He wouldn’t abandon us in the midst of our battles. Whether the battle was due to outside forces such as unemployment or inner demons such as doubt and unbelief; I was willing to hold fast to the promise that God is there to strive with us and fight for us.
When my father baptized me at age five in that dark, dank cement pool (seems like a mysterious dungeon when you’re five) that hid under the pulpit; I had no clue what the next fifty-three years would look like. I didn’t know what all it would take to “contend for the faith.” I had no clue that divorce, miscarriage, debt, and a hysterectomy was in my future.
But today, under a Nevada winter sun and in front of over 300 people watching from inside the sanctuary via a large screen; I publicly confessed my belief and understanding that Jesus lived, died and was resurrected for me. As the pastor and I stood in the warm water waiting for our cue, I silently prayed that every negative thought, weighty emotion and life-sucking habit that had plagued my life and mind in the past, would drown and dissipate in that portable baptistry pool.
Today was not only about the confessions of a naïve five-year old; it was also about moving forward with a redefined sense of hope… one rid of anything attempting to stand in the way of the abundant life I was promised as a child. Having lived through lean and not so lean, I now know that life was not about someone’s approves or the collection of things. No, today’s confession was about moving into 2020 with a clearer vision of what is means to occupy life and live a life on full.