Friday, 27 May 2011
The last church I attended was a really nice little church. The first day I went, people noticed I was there and reached out immediately. Going in, I was looking not only for a place I could learn and strengthen my relationship with God, but also a place that I could find other Christian and positive people to connect with. At that time in my life, I needed to surround myself with people who could help uplift me, encourage me, and replace the negative social group I finally chose to let go of.
Once again feeling the need and want to trust and lay my burdens in God's hands, I followed a small group of people up front to pray and be prayed for. I silently prayed for guidance, courage, strength, and wisdom. I prayed and asked God to help me. In fact, I begged. I didn't want to feel lost anymore. And after a few moments, I noticed that I no longer was with a group of people. They had all gone back to their seats and I was standing alone. I began to panic and my focus suddenly went from praying, to fear, guilt, and embarrassment. There I was, standing in front of the entire church. Strangers. Some of them praying and others of them watching me. I quickly thanked the pastor for praying with me and then excused myself. Shaking and nervous, I avoided looking at the people, and began hating myself for holding them up. Worrying about things that really shouldn't matter.
A lady, one I was sitting next to and had spoken to for a bit before the service, hugged me as I sat down and asked if I was alright. I nodded of course. I just felt stupid. But it wasn't even a moment later, and the pastor came walking down the aisle towards me and said that he felt that he wasn't done. That he still wanted to pray for me. So he reached out and continued to pray for me right there in my seat in front of the entire church. I had a lot of anxiety from being new, not knowing anyone, singling myself out in front of everyone and then having all eyes on me as he reached out to me again, but I also just felt really good that he sensed that I needed that. Especially when I expected that I would walk in and feel alone.
I connected with some people for a while, and continued to go, feeling like I was where I needed to be. But a few months and some odd events later, I became discouraged. On top of my normal routine of withdrawing myself after getting to know people, feeling overly exposed, and too personal. There were a lot of things that factored in. Things going on in my life, things going on with those I connected with in the church, and then the pressure of taking the next step. Which was, to be baptized and become a member of the church.
One of the gals I had connected with really pressured me about taking the membership class. I didn't feel I was ready. I didn't know the church well enough yet, I hadn't been going that long, I was still struggling with my faith, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to commit myself to anything.
I had been baptised when I was probably 16 years old. I don't have a certificate of baptism. It was in a small church that was maybe 15-20 people. My exboyfriend's father was the pastor. He baptized me in the river at a local park. It didn't really mean anything to me. I didn't know what it meant, why I was doing it, other than they were baptizing people that week and since I hadn't been yet, I was one of those people. I have never really considered that as an actual baptism. I believe that if you are going to get baptized that it should be taken seriously. That time should be spent learning about what it means to be baptized and you should really be sure that you are ready to commit yourself. I guess. For me, I still wasn't sure where I was at. I wanted to do it when I was ready. Not by the pressure and demand of someone else. "This is the next step, you need to do it." No. To me, that's just not how it should work. I don't want to do it just because it "needs to be done." I want to be ready, and for it to mean something. I also wanted to learn what being baptized in that church meant. I needed time, and the pressure of things was starting to push me away.
The same thing went down for the membership class. I didn't really want to go, but I did after being hassled. They gave us a book and discussed what being a member meant and what was required. Again, I didn't feel I was ready to sign my name on a piece of paper, committing myself to anything. I needed more time to connect with God and restore my relationship with him. I wanted to feel more secure in that. And I was really trying. To be at that church, to have even taken that first step, by myself was huge. I just wanted to go at my own pace, and connect with other people to help and encourage me along the way. But it suddenly began to feel more like judgment and force. I kind of felt rushed. I mean, does it make me less of a christian and any less loved by God if I don't become a member of this church and get baptized?
So I left.
I became discouraged. I became confused. The combination of needing to become a member of the church, needing to get baptized, trying to work on my relationship with God...it all became overwhelming. I was trying to work at my own pace and take it all in as I could, and I felt like it was never enough. I felt like I wasn't doing good enough. So I cried and I began to feel like I just wasn't worthy or deserving of God's love...or...anything. My life was scattered and I didn't know how to keep up with it.
So I begin to drift away yet again. Feeling like a failure. I felt like I failed my family, my friends and God. I didn't want to think about it anymore. So, I did what I felt was best for me at the time. I put it behind me. My life was about to take on a new chapter anyway, so I put my focus on that.
Have you ever been baptized? What does it mean to you? Are you an 'official' member of your church? What does that mean to you? Do you feel these things are required and important?