Friday, 27 April 2012
By Tom Zuniga
Several years ago I watched my younger siblings do it. I’ve often wondered whether I would ever follow in their footsteps. Been questioned about it plenty of times.
But I already have Jesus in my heart. I love Him dearly. He is everything; He’s the only thing.
For nearly 25 years God’s will has superseded mine, despite countless stumbles along the way. I’m certainly not perfect, but I strive to do the right thing. To love people like God has inexplicably loved me. I believe in Him as sure as I do oxygen or the intoxicating smell of cinnamon buns baking in an oven. When all else fails, He never has, does, or will.
I’m already assured of living with Him forever someday. What else is there?
Why get baptized?
I’ve spent most of my life in isolation. Particularly within church. A cruel irony considering I’ve attended approximately 99.3% of the 1,305 Sunday services stretching back 25 years.
I’ve always gone to church, but I’ve hardly ever felt part of church. Always witnessed the story happening around me, but had never taken part in the story myself.
Baptism always seemed to be a waste of time considering my utter disconnect from the church. What did I matter? Why stand in front of hundreds of people who don’t care about or even know me, only to return to obscurity once the applause dies?
Why put myself through such heartless ritualistic agony?
In a perfect world, sure, I would have done it. Would have taken that clothed bath over a decade ago with no shame over proclaiming my faith. But my world has been far from perfect.
From Georgia to California, I’ve desperately desired a church that would truly welcome me into their fold. But after dozens of church visits and small group experimentation, I was left high and literally dry. My shameful introverted socially incompetent self just couldn’t belong, no matter the building, no matter how hard I tried or wanted it.
Time and again, my thoughts in church would reverberate: Just worship Jesus alone from the end seat. Ignore the other people on this row. Put on a cheesy smile during the greeting. You have nothing to offer these people; they’ll only offer you nothing in return. You’re not worthy of their love.
You don’t really matter here.
But over the last year especially, God has been prodding me out of isolation. Toward connection into the impossible realm of genuine community.
I could write a book on my YouthWorks experience in Milwaukee last summer, and I probably will someday. In short, it was a whirlwind summer of connecting with people — friends — on deep daunting vulnerable levels previously unforeseen and unimaginable.
In my dazed return to southern California last fall, I somehow found a phenomenal church after years of searching. Have also been blessed by a life-changing life group who have graciously welcomed me as one of their own.
In reality, I mattered all along. Jeremiah 29:11 was just as true then as it is now. But now I actually believe that promise. That I, indeed, have a story worth sharing and a part to contribute to this Body—even if it’s just a crooked pinky toenail or a single randomly white eyebrow hair that always grows back no matter how many times I pluck it.
Over the last several months my church has been engaged in a series entitled “The Story of God.” We’ve essentially gone through the entire Bible, and I’m in awe over the story God’s weaved over thousands of years. Is still weaving today. The New Testament hit me especially hard.
I went to the park with my e-Bible one day and searched every occurrence of the word “baptized.” Read many stories of people believing in a man who turned their lives around. They just couldn’t hold in their joy; they had to proclaim it. Had to get baptized.
And so after two and a half decades of wandering from church to church and community to community, I figured what better day than my 25th birthday tomorrow to take the plunge. As a writer with a fancy for symbolism, I couldn’t be more thrilled about the timing.
This is, appropriately, the year of “courageous,” but if you were to have told me on January 1st I’d be getting baptized in three short months, I’d have said no way.
God loves working with the “no way.” Fitting.
The thought of getting in front of people is still a butterflies-committing-suicide-in-stomach one, but I’m ready to do this. No more fear. No shame.
If you live in the area and would like to be there, hit me up for the deets. Would be honored to tie the bow on my first quarter-century with you.
So there you have it — why I’ve never been baptized.