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Why, hello there. Many of you might know that I got baptized on February 6. Some of you may have even watched! I hope this video and the original testimony I wrote will be an encouragement to you or someone you know who is considering stepping out in faith. Whether you’re praying for the first time, the last time, sharing your life with others, or still not sure about this whole God thing – whatever it is that you believe, believe all of it!
How many of you sitting here (reading my excellent blog) have had to do that thing where you have to deconstruct your identity? Maybe at a leadership conference, or during a small-group discussion. That thing where you list your nouns that describe your work, family status, religion, etc. These are the ways we’ve been taught to conceive our identity – the things we write down over and over whenever we fill out the demographic portion of a form. But outside of these contexts, how often do you think of your identity? Probably only when part of it is threatened. You lose a job. Your relationship breaks up. You get into an accident and lose your legs. The loss of these core parts of yourself can make you wonder what business you have doing x, y, or z. What business do you have staying in your career? What business do you have thinking another relationship would go any better? What business do you have thinking you can still have adventures? Many of these questions come from believing that we are the only one who’s ever been in this situation – or, if someone else has overcome it, that doesn’t mean that we can.
Whenever I’ve seen someone get baptized, it’s been the same. Are you up there thinking some of the same things that I did? “Wow, their lives must be going so great.” “I could never do that – I’m a mess.” Or “I’m a Christian, sure, but it’s not like I want to make a big deal out of it.” Or maybe you’re even thinking: “When will this be over – breakfast is only served until 11:00 am.”
Going through this baptism process, I was asked to prepare a testimony – and it went a little all over the place, because that’s how my mind works.
How did you come to know Jesus and why do you want to be baptized?
I think I’m like a lot of you – I was more or less raised in church. I was baptized Catholic, and even did the reconciliation and first communion ceremony when I was with my mom. With my dad, we went to the Lutheran church that was closest to our home. I’ve gone to Christian Summer camps of different denominations for as long as I can remember, and I tagged along to Bible studies and church or evangelical events with the homeschoolers in my community (Mission Fest, etc.). When I was younger, there was a time when God felt so real to me that it was hard to believe he would ever be far away. He answered when I prayed – and I prayed for some strange things. God was my safe space in a world of chaos and dysfunction – but as I got older, my stronghold got shakier.
I wanted to be like those homeschool families who I saw as perfect. They were functional, happy, and seemed to have their lives all figured out – marry young, have a bunch of kids, work on the farm, rinse, wash and repeat. But my mindset was like trying to build a house on sand – I saw the outside of what they were doing, and thought I could replicate it without the foundations that they had.
I’ve struggled with a lot of mental health challenges in my life, and a shaky identity has been a big part of that. There were a lot of things that I couldn’t understand or tried to hide about my identity because of how scared I was of being put out of the group. I worked hard to be perfect – perfect grades, extra curriculars, getting up early to finish my farm chores before school. But the fact that I tried to hide from myself, or didn’t understand some of my struggles, meant that no matter how hard I worked – I would still fall short, and at times it would nearly destroy me. If I made a mistake or didn’t produce something awesome or didn’t cross certain things off my to-do-list, I was a failure. And through the years, there was that voice asking me – what business do you have calling yourself a Christian? Even today, right now (RIGHT NOW!), I can hear it, and maybe it’s saying similar things to you as it says to me: as someone with a broken marriage, as someone who was cohabiting with my boyfriend and had a baby before I was married, a mother who’s child can’t live with her due to my mental health struggles, as someone who’s part of the LGBTQ community, as a university drop-out, as a person who can’t even get out of bed or leave the house some days because of depression or anxiety instead of taking everything to the Lord in prayer, as someone who’s tried to kill myself not once, but three times, as a recovering sex addict. The list goes on. With all that, what on earth am I doing here, with these people (those on my team at Planet Hope, those I go out to evangelize with, my young adults group) whose lives are surely put together enough that they can commit to following God forever? Who am I?
Praise the LORD.  Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.2Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.3Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,4praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute,5praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.6Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.Psalm 150
Well, I’m not up here (writing while up on this pedestal) because I’m anything special or some sort of super-Christian. I’m here because of the people who have come alongside me and let me be honest about who I am so that I can turn and be honest to God. People like those in the Monday Night Evangelism group and Young Adults. People like Jan Varner, who couldn’t be here today but over the years has seen me travel the rollercoaster of being close to God and turning away. People like Graham Barnes, who’s gentle leadership of Young Adults helps me to believe that I belong, no matter what.
This is what Jesus says to you up there (and out there), and to me, in Matthew 12:50: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Even if my friends, family, or even the church reject me – I’m part of a bigger, global, celestial, heavenly family that loves me no matter what – even if it feels like it’s just me and Jesus sometimes.
Maybe your family was a little more like Shameless and a little less like Good Luck Charlie. But when you’re part of the family of God, you know that you belong, forever.
I’m here for the exact reason that Jesus Christ died in the first place – because I’m broken, flawed, lost, and at times downright mean. I see Jesus calling me on the road ahead, and today I’ve decided to follow after him, instead of following the path that I was previously on. Even If it felt like a perfectly acceptable path at times, Jesus would still be calling me to something beyond my imagination. Every now and it will be hard, lonely, or even deadly. Just like when I attempt to walk down the street with my five-year-old son, The Holy Spirit guides me to where I need to be, and tells me to move along when I get distracted by other things – just keep following, just keep going down that path, travelling with these believers here with me today, many of you up in that gallery, and others who have also chosen to walk this path and grow out of our old ways of life, together, one step at a time.
I’m so grateful for the contribution that these people have made in my life and pointed me to Jesus.
Thanks for Stopping by!
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13