Happy New-Birthday to Me!
It was exactly August 4th, 1988...20 years ago today. I was 13 years old and was attending Barton Bible Camp for the 4th summer in a row. Every year you wondered who's year it would be to accept Christ and be baptized in the "holy" waters of Lake Greeson. This was to be my year.
Church camp in Daisy, Arkansas started out as usual. It was hot, those rickety fans were working overtime in the worship pavilion, the "orange juice" was still a mixture of Tang & Orange KoolAid and the water still smelled of sulfur. I am sure I had a crush on someone and would always wonder when the cute boys would be out playing ping pong so we girls could sit around and watch them flex their masculine, 15 year muscles used on the skill of ping pong! Girls still pushed the limits of the "finger-tip length shorts rule. Someone was always running around the mess hall for having their elbows on the table. The girls v. boys pranks were better than the year before. We could count on it storming one afternoon so we could have a huge water/mud fight. Someone would end up being cut by a rock during the fight to end it for the rest of us. And the highlight of the afternoon would be getting to get a candy bar and Mr. Pibb at the Canteen. This was our beloved Camp Barton!
I remember that week thinking about my decision and knowing that I knew what I should do. Coming from my church of Christ background, I always had that fear and guilt thing going for not being a "baptized believer". But that wasn't why I made that decision that Thursday night.
I knew that I believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. I knew that I wanted to start setting an example among my friends. I knew that I wanted to walk with Him for the rest of my life. I knew I NEEDED HIM to do all of this!
The special part of this day was that my grandfather was scheduled to do the devotional that night. My parents were there (my mom & grandmurna worked in the kitchen at camp every year) and my brother was there as well. Now you would think I would tell you that the devotional that night was something earth shattering and life changing. No offense Grandy. I am sure it was an amazing devotional, but I don't recall a single word. I knew as soon as he stopped speaking and the singing started, it was my time to take that walk down to the front. My turn to make my public confession before others that I was not living with Christ in my life. That I needed Him and wanted Him to come into my heart and my life and be Lord and Savior over the rest of my days.
So I stepped out. Knowing all eyes were on me I am sure I was shaking like a leaf. The great thing about church camp was that all inhibitions were thrown out the door. Kids were allowed to worship as God created and intended for us all to worship....in the purest form possible. No rules or regulations to follow. Clap if you want. Throw your arms in the air if you want. Come down front and surround your friend that just made the biggest decision of their life if you want. And that is exactly what my friends and family did!
I knew I wanted my big brother to baptize me. I know my dad was there as was my granddad, but I wanted to share this moment with my bub. I also wanted to do it after dark. (This was a very popular time to be baptized because it meant we all got to stay out a little later!) So after dark, we grabbed our flashlights and headed down the trail to Lake Greeson where just a few hours ago we were jumping off the swim dock during "Girls Only" swim time.
(Yes, this is an actual picture of Lake Greeson, although not where we were and no pictures were taken of that night...that I know of. Oh, to have this day recorded on film!)
My brother and I headed down into the water. I felt like I could hear a pin drop even though the bank behind us was covered with all of those cherished most. My most vivid memory was right before we turned to face everyone, a small-mouthed bass swam right in front of my brother and I and headed on his way like this was such normal occurrence in his little habitat. With everyone holding up flashlights, we turned toward the banks of lake Greeson and my brother took my confession. I remember every sensation of going down in that water and coming up to walk a new life. I truly felt changed as I rose up out of that water. My mind inevitably drifted to the baptism of Jesus and I couldn't believe that I was able to be a part of a tradition that started with Jesus Christ himself. I will never forget that feeling of pureness, cleanliness (even though I was covered by the grimy waters of Lake "Greasy" as we use to call it), and the sense of holiness I felt at that moment. I am sure had I been still long enough, I would have heard the cheers in heaven over their new family member...ME! After the cheers of my friends and family, I will never forget the sound of them singing "Someday" as we walked back to shore. Hugging my parents, grandparents and friends and knowing that these were the same people I would now share eternity with thrilled my soul...and still does to this day!
I know that day...the feelings, the emotions...were just a glimpse of what that big day will be like. I know that the moment I see my Lord and Savior for the first time will not even compare to all I felt at the moment. And I can't wait! To know that everyone I know and love who has also accepted Christ will be there with me, for eternity just about brings me to tears. All those friends I have lost touched with...will be there! The family I wish I could see everyday and not just every now and then....will be there! The old roommates I still wish I could live with and stay up late with everyday...will be there (and you better believe we have an eternity's worth of talking to do when that day comes!) My bible heros and teachers here on earth that have opened the word up to me in ways I would have never discovered on my own...will be there! And God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit will all be there! How could you not be excited for that day?
So thanks for walking down this memory lane with me today. I can tell you with full assurance, that was the best decision I ever made. Was I young? Yes! Was I anywhere near in my spiritual walk that I preconceived I should be to accept Christ? NO! But since that day have I had full assurance of where I will be spending my eternity? YES!!! And I hope today that you have that same confidence as well. How "ironic" that our preacher spoke on Romans 8 this weekend ("So now, those who are in Christ Jesus are not judged guilty. Through Jesus Christ, the law of the Spirit that brings life made me free from the law that brings sin & death!). Gotta love God's sense of humor and timing!
To get you fired up about your eternity as well, I would encourage you to take some time today and listen to this incredible monologue by our Sr. High pastor (click HERE). Scroll down and click on where it says "6/7/2008...Matt Newman...Bema Seat Monologue). It may take a little time out of your day (like reading all of this did!) but it is well worth it and you will be blessed by this glimpse into what that special day will be like! See you there!