Ten years ago I was 19 years old, a pretty average college freshman. One Monday morning — well, technically November 25 if my memory still works — I woke up a little earlier than usual. We wanted to get down to the shore of Lake Washington and back before classes started.
It was foggy and cold and dark when we arrived. We shivered and huddled together, about 20 of us. Several people had the opportunity to talk. And then all of the attention was on…me. But in truth, what was going on had very little to do with me at all. I think I shared a few words, but the only significant thing I said was, “Jesus is Lord!” And then, as if our presence there wasn’t strange enough already, I hurried across the rocky beach with two of my companions — and they shoved me under the icy-cold water. I gasped for breath after I emerged and stumbled back to smoother ground, where a towel, warm hugs and a warm car awaited me.
If you think that’s a strange ritual, you’re not the only one. I was an odd sight coming back to my dorm room, sopping wet in late November. Had I been to the pool? (Come to think of it, why didn’t we find a warm pool? We might have been a little crazy). People in the elevator couldn’t resist the question: “Where have you been?” “I got baptized!” I grinned. They politely smiled and nodded.
Maybe you’re politely smiling and nodding too (or maybe not because it’s not like I can see your face right now). That’s okay. I get it. It’s weird. Even ten years later I’m hesitant sharing about what I believe sometimes because it is so weird and I don’t like people to think I’m delusional/naive/stupid.
But baptism was only the beginning. I was doing a Bible study with a friend a couple of weeks ago and I asked her what she thought about applying some of what she was learning. She smiled a little and said, “Strange and interesting!”
Yep, that about sums it up. Christianity in a nutshell.
There is so much I could say about the last ten years. I’ve traveled the continent, met and married the love of my life, pursued ministry dreams all the way to Alaska, met hundreds of inspiring people, celebrated victories, cried in defeat, been humbled, been hurt, been the hurter, started a family.
Oh wait, I guess that’s not so strange. Except maybe the little stint in Alaska.
I’ve heard it said that life is going to be hard no matter what. We each have our own battles. We can just choose to face them with God or without him.
What would my life be like if I hadn’t become a Christian ten years ago? I dunno…I stopped seriously wondering that a long time ago. It’s hard to mentally undo ten years of my life in one direction and then imagine what it would look like in another direction. I can barely make plans through the end of next week.
My life might not have looked drastically different. On the outside. I probably would have traveled, perhaps still be married and starting a family, doing good work. I probably would have partied more in college.
What was strange and interesting about every day of the last ten years, though, was consciously, constantly looking “upward instead of inward,” if you know what I mean. I believe Jesus refers to this practice of daily self-denial if we are to make him Lord (Luke 9:23-25) (paradoxically, we find ourselves by losing ourselves, but I digress. Read the passage). Because of this, I’ve tried to:
- Say I’m sorry without expecting any apology in return.
- Be honest. About. Everything.
- Always forgive.
- NOT JUDGE/CONDEMN.
- Be confident with my God-given abilities without boasting in them (that’s really hard).
- Always be grateful.
- Openly and regularly talk to others about my weaknesses, a.k.a. sins.
- Rejoice that I get to start over every single day.
- Meet with other strange like-minded believers regularly, more than once a week. Especially when I don’t feel like it.
- Invite other people into my life whom I don’t naturally get along with.
- Love and give not just until it hurts, but until it stops hurting.
- Be 100% faithful to my husband (and remain pure before I married him).