I remember the day well. I wore a homemade dress—gold on the bottom, black and gold plaid on the top. I felt such a sense of relief as I walked down to the river to be baptized, knowing I would walk back out with my sins forgiven. I wondered what it would “feel” like to have God’s Spirit in me. That was 50 years ago today—June 22, 1967.
I knew I was lost, separated from God. Though I was just a young teen, I had already dabbled in rebellion. My mouth was filled with cursing and I had already tried a few cigarettes….just because I wanted to. Those were just a couple of many sins. I struggled with the desire to experience the world and to “fit in”…thinking it seemed much too restrictive to follow the “narrow road” as outlined in the Bible. How could that bring freedom? (I’d soon come to learn the great truth in this paradox.) Yet, one thing would never leave my mind.
What would I do with Jesus? I had to answer the same question Pilate asked the crowd around him years ago:
But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered.
“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!”
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” (Matthew 27:20-24, emphasis added)
I reasoned—either he was true, and rose from the dead…or he wasn’t’ and didn’t.
Either the Bible was true, or it wasn’t.
I found that it took much more faith to believe it wasn’t true…than to have faith that it is true. 50 years later I have never been more solidly convinced of its truth.
The night before my baptism a scene ran through my mind’s eye again and again. A scene of Jesus showing ultimate love…dying for me. How could I say “no” to that love? I had a “fear of God,” knowing I would give account to him one day, combined with a sense of amazement of what he did for me. I had been thinking I should try to get “good enough” to become a Christian first. I finally realized that the point of the cross was that I could never be good enough. God wanted me, “Just as I am.” When I heard the words to the song by that title, I knew I could not wait any longer.
I had grown up reading the Bible most every day, though no one “formally” studied the Bible with me. I remember asking myself…”What if God wanted me to move to Africa? Would I be willing? What if someone pointed a gun at me and asked me to deny Jesus? Would I be faithful?”
Ironically, years later I was held at knife point and boldy (through the power of God’s Spirit) told the assailant he would account to God for what he planned to do to me. After about an hour, I was let go—completely unharmed. (You can read about this in “My Morning Cup.”) Three decades later we would be asked to move to South Africa, which we fully planned to do. Last minute changes and needs in the church there changed that plan, which surprisingly brought me more disappointment than relief.
Over the 50 years I’ve grown and changed beyond my imagination. I’ve messed up so many times and experienced God’s grace again and again. But, over the past 50 years I’ve never looked back. I’ve seen amazing miracles from God and many amazing acts of love (as well as disappointments and wrongdoings) from others. These have shown me the truth of the Scripture:
What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?
Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.” (Romans 3:3-4)
God and his word remain true no matter my circumstances or actions of others.
The “minister” that baptized me actually went to jail for some really bad stuff. Churches and leaders both inspired and disappointed throughout the years. However, nothing in all of this changes God’s Word—or his plan for the church. It’s all true and the church is still his plan. It never was about people’s responses. It is about how I respond to God and his word.
Nothing will ever change the need to answer the question, “What will I do with Jesus?” It really is all about him.
When people quit following Jesus, what others do or don’t do is never the real issue. A walk with God is always about what we will do with Jesus.
He’s true or he’s not. He rose from the dead or he didn’t.
Not only that, but the life I have seen and lived “proves in practice his good and perfect will.”
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
June 22, 2017. Today. 50 years later.
Today I am surrounded by my family while on vacation. Earlier, I went on a prayer walk with my oldest daughter and fourteen-year-old granddaughter who has been a disciple for a little over a year. The depth of love and relationship we share with our kids and their spouses, and that we all share with each other is such a real part of God’s good, pleasing and perfect will. As I listened to my granddaughter’s prayers, and watched the other grandchildren love each other, read the Bible together, play and pray together my heart is filled with inexpressible gratitude.
My marriage of nearly 43 years is closer and deeper than I know how to explain…all attributed to our decision to follow God’s plan. I get to experience this because of a decision made 50 years ago. Even though the past year has not been as we would have planned (my husband has developed a debilitating and truly awful neurological disease), we have great hope and courage to live each day with joy. This world is truly not our home. God has promised us eternal life.
My spiritual brothers and sisters provide relationships that bring great comfort and joy. I have been able to see, over these 50 years, God working throughout the world changing lives that inspire me beyond words. Only the power of God could bring such changed lives and unity in relationships. I’ve been able to see the poor around the world served and lonely orphans placed in families. All because of one decision, 50 years ago.
That one decision made 50 years ago has made all the difference. I could not be more grateful to God for his good, perfect and pleasing will.
I can only imagine what I might write 50 years from now—if there is “writing” in Paradise.
No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”- (1 Corinthians 2:7-9)
Never underestimate the power of one decision
Thank you God, for these 50 years. And thank you for the hope of eternity.