When you are disturbed, do not sin;
ponder it on your beds, and be silent.
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord. [Psalm 4:4-5]
Ten was never far enough for me. My impulse to anger being what it is.
Firstly, I wasn’t prepared to enter the Catholic Church, even if I had chosen to stay in the RCIA class. Given that reality, it certainly was inappropriate for me to meddle in the structure of the program, disrupting the class for those in attendance. Next year, after Easter, would be soon enough to approach the priest.
Thirdly, a few good things came out of attending the first class. I could be thankful. And I could pray for the leaders and catechumens.
Fourthly, I could take time to get my house in order. I could get my baptism information and be ready for next year.
Time passed, and with emotions finally under control, I picked up the phone, calling the Presbyterian church of my youth. A woman answered, and I set about asking her how to get a certificate of my baptism. She took my information and promised to look into it.
A few days later, she called back. She took pains to confirm with me the details of my family, my relatives and the years of our attendance. Yes, she had found the membership and baptism records for my aunt and uncle and their five sons. Apologetically, she said she had no information on my family or myself. None. Thus, there was no record of my baptism and no chance of a certificate.
It took a few minutes for this to sink in. I did my best to ask her multiple times, “Are you sure?” She was, indeed, having gone over records for more than twenty years. “Thank you,” I said and put the phone back in the charger.
I sat in silence. Puzzled. Either the church forgot to record my baptism…or I had never been baptized. How could I have been so certain I had been baptized?
Then slowly, a new realization began to develop. I had never been certain of my baptism. I had taken it for granted that I had been baptized because I had attended the church for a few years and had attended their confirmation classes for students.
What did I really remember? Candlelight midnight Christmas services. Sitting in confirmation class, second row back. Sitting in the forest under a pine tree on a high school church retreat. Driving to teen group events in the family Olds.
But I had not one iota of a memory about baptism. I remembered clearly being “not baptized,” explaining our family Presbyterian/Baptist beliefs to my junior high friends. “My parents want me to be baptized when I know what it means, and I can make the decision for myself.” If we had gone the way of the Baptist church in Tennessee, I certainly would have remembered being plunged into the water.
But we were Scottish Presbyterians. I remembered parents holding their babies over the font for a few sprinkles. But adults? I could not picture any adult ever going to the front of the church to be sprinkled. Never. Not any adult…including myself.
Had the memory grown dim? My participation in the teen youth group was short-lived. Eventually, our whole family quit attending church. A few years later, arriving on the college campus, I dispensed with faith altogether…for twenty years…God was unprovable, unbelievable and irrelevant. I had no desire or reason to remember any aspect of my former church life.
Reflecting on the faith of my parents, it started to make sense. My mother took my sister and me to church as an effort to expose us to church, a duty to educate us about what other people believed. On Sundays, my Dad stayed home. Several years of church and Christmas services had assured my Mom that she had done her duty, and we settled back into our loving secular home, respectful of believers and visiting church on occasion. But there had never been a pressing desire for my parents to seal us as children of God, followers of Christ.
I had no memory at all, ever, of being baptized. And it all made sense. Encountering God and Christ as an adult, I had simply plugged that mental hole with the assumption that I had been sprinkled many, many years ago.
First the realization dawned.
Thoughts of RCIA faded, receded and disappeared.
Only one thing mattered.
I believed. I loved Jesus. He loves me.
I didn’t just want to be baptized. I thirsted for baptism. The longing for baptism took over every cell in my body.
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? [Psa 42:1-2]
NEXT: THE GIFT OF FAITH
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