Hey everyone! Doing something a little different for today’s Sabbath Thought. This is a little reflection I typed up earlier this week on the anniversary of my baptism. It generated some interest when I shared it on Facebook, so I thought I’d go ahead and post it here on the blog. If you’ve already read this, I apologize for the repost—but I’m taking this time to work on a very special Sabbath Thought I hope to be able to share with you all next week. So, without further ado, here are some reflections from a six-year-old:
Six years. Has it really been that long? Sometimes it seems impossible for that much time to have passed; other times it seems like a story from another lifetime.
Six years ago today, in the presence of God, my family, and a few close friends, I buried who I’d been. The young man who came to that baptism was not the same person as the young man who left. He came carrying the death penalty earned from sin; he left forgiven and with the Spirit of the living God already beginning to renovate the parts of him that were broken and incomplete.
I remember being worried that it didn’t “take.” People kept asking me afterward if I felt any different, and I didn’t know how to answer. The clouds certainly hadn’t parted and no one had heard any angelic chorus, and at just three minutes old I was still sorting some things out.
“So,” they’d ask, “how do you feel?”
“Wet,” I’d reply. “And hungry.”
I remember later that day when the dear friend who baptized me took me aside to a private room, knelt down with me, and prayed for me. He talked to God about who I was, who I wasn’t anymore, and who I had been given the potential to become. All the nagging thoughts about whether or not it “took” melted away. I was still a babe, and the road ahead I knew would be difficult, but after coming before God with my friend I was certain that the still small voice which had been guiding me my whole life was now working within me, preparing me to become a full-fledged son of the Most High. I was ready to face that road.
And what a road it’s been! I had no idea what the next six years would hold for me when I walked away from the shore of that New Hampshire lake, but they’ve been so much greater than anything I could have ever imagined. God has opened doors for me that I hadn’t ever dreamed of walking through. He took me to Ohio and gave me nine months of intensive Bible study, then gave me a job for two wonderful years, writing for His people. I’ve seen Paris and Portugal, Kenya and Jamaica; I’ve traveled here and there across the continental U.S. And my personal favorite: He introduced me to the most beautiful woman in the world. She’s my best friend and, for one fantastic year and counting, my wife.
There have been ups and there have been downs—and He’s held my hand through all of them. He helped me through a three month transitory stint at Walmart (or, as I’ve affectionately nicknamed it, “The Valley of the Shadow of Death”). I’ve watched some friends give up on God and others give their lives to God. I’ve watched Him turn trials into blessings and roadblocks into stepping stones. I’ve watched the impossible become plausible.
And I’ve learned things. Things about the world, things about other people, and more things than I care to know about myself.
I’ve learned that it’s not always about where I want to go, but where God wants to take me. The Bible says that “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9), and I’ve found that to be true. All the planning and forethought in the world doesn’t add up to a hill of beans if it isn’t God’s plan—because at the end of the day, He makes the call. And I couldn’t be more thankful for that. When I look back, my hopes and dreams have always paled in comparison to His plan. My life is richer for His continual intervention.
I’ve learned that God gives good gifts, whether or not I recognize them at the time. He’s never given me a stone when I’ve asked for bread (Luke 11:9-13), but sometimes it’s taken me a little while to understand that I was confused about what bread actually is. My Father knows what I need—not what I think I need, but what I really, truly need—and He has never failed to provide me with that.
I’ve learned that His timing is perfect. My life is only a subset of a grand master plan, and yet I’ve always found Him to have perfectly and lovingly crafted every moment. Whether it’s a lesson I’m learning, a sin I’m overcoming, or a blessing I’m receiving, they each seem to happen exactly when and how they need to. It’s rarely the time or manner I would have chosen myself, but the God who shaped the universe knows what’s best…and more importantly, when it’s best.
I’ve learned that age is only a factor of maturity, not a determinant. I’ve seen foolishness in those with gray hair and more wisdom than Solomon in those still wet behind the ears. There’s no denying that time and experience have taught me so much more than I knew half a dozen years ago, and that the majority of those older than me have a great deal more understanding—but simply getting old doesn’t bring wisdom any more than sitting in a classroom brings knowledge. If you’re willing to learn on the way, it will, but there are no points awarded for just existing.
I’ve learned that when God seems absent from my life, it’s because I drifted, not Him. My own sins of serving other gods, whether of money, greed, or selfishness, push me off course and away from Him. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).
And I’ve learned most of all that the end of my story depends on me. No one else can determine the words I’ll hear from God upon His return. That’s my choice and it depends on my decisions now. It doesn’t belong to my parents, my friends, or even my minister—it’s my responsibility to “work out [my] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). I am responsible to God for my actions, words, and thoughts. If I allow a root of bitterness to grow in me, that’s my failing and no one else’s. The actions of others might affect me, but it’s my actions that shape my destiny.
Today I turn six years old. I’ve learned and grown and experienced things I could have never imagined those six years ago, but I’m still a babe. I still have so much more to learn and experience. Whether Christ returns in the next six years or the next sixty, I know that my baptism was only the first step of an eternal journey—and if these past few years have been any indication, what a fantastic journey it will be.
Until next time,