November 22, 1987.
30 years ago today.
On this date…
Dale Earnhardt won the 37th NASCAR Sprint Cup.
The Patriots shut out Indianapolis 24-0.
Jack Sikma (Milwaukee) ended his NBA free throw streak of 51 games.
Two Chicago television stations were hijacked by an unknown pirate dressed as Max Headroom.
Lots of other things happened, too. Babies were born; people passed on. It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving, so I’m sure people were traveling to see loved ones around the country. Some went to the movies. Some went shopping. Some stayed at home and cleaned, cooked, read books, watched TV.
For most people, it was an ordinary day.
But not for me.
For me, it was a “come-to-Jesus” kind of day.
November 22, 1987, was the day I was baptized into Christ.
I did not grow up going to church; it was not a regular “thing” for me. Sure, I went if I had a sleepover with a friend who went, but I knew absolutely nothing about faith.
I’m not going to go into details about the events leading up to my salvation; suffice it to say that I was rapidly spinning out of control as I feel deeper and deeper into my dark pit of despair. I was deeply depressed, hopelessly lost, and felt completely empty. I was a complete and utter disaster – a suicide waiting to happen, or a college-girl-statistic yet to be counted. Things were so dark for me that I can’t tell you much about my week in Atlantic City that September, because it’s a literal black hole in my memory (nope, I didn’t do anything to get into trouble, because I was too young to drink or gamble – it’s just a blank spot, my “rock bottom,” if you will). It was my semicolon.
I returned from Atlantic City broken and empty, needing to be filled with something, anything, other than the depression that was sucking me down like a mastodon in a tar pit. Only then was I willing to go to church with a couple of friends, who had been trying to get me to go with them for several weeks.
Why was I so resistant?
Because I knew that “they” would see my sin. “They” would know how unworthy I was. “They” would judge me, and give me “that” look. And no god in his right mind would want me.
But I was wrong.
I don’t remember the subject. There had been a marrieds’ retreat, I think and a couple of people shared their experiences. The Pastor (“Evangelist,” in the church I went to) shared a sermon, and I cried through the whole thing. All of the years of anxiety, depression, desperation, loneliness – everything came pouring out of me that very morning, in that very pew. Two girls came to talk to me, and I will forever be grateful to them for their acceptance, friendship and godly love.
Wendy, Judy and I began to meet weekly to study the book of John, so that I could learn who this Jesus really is. I learned that He is the Son of God – not just some “good” man who once lived on the earth. I learned that he was obedient to his parents and that he loved to listen to and challenge the “teachers of the law” as a young boy. I learned that he had a sense of humor. I learned that he had great compassion for the “sinners,” but seriously challenged the “religious” people. I learned that he made a choice that he didn’t have to make, for me and for you and for everyone else, all while knowing full well that many people would choose to reject his gift – because we’ve been given free will.
He gave it all anyway.
We studied more when we were done with John. They taught me about discipleship, what it means to follow Christ, and how we won’t be perfect, but we are expected to try to do the right thing (1 Pe 2:21, Eph 5:2, Mt 28:18-20). They taught me what sin is according to the Bible, and how it is what separated me from God (Gal 5:19-21, Ro 3:23, Isa 59:2, Eph 4:18). They taught me about the cross – what crucifixion is, what Jesus experienced during crucifixion, and why His choice to stay on that cross, even though he had all the power of Heaven in His pinky finger, is such an incredibly powerful thing for us all, and how it is what makes forgiveness of my sins possible (Eph 2). They taught me that, according to the Bible, I am washed clean by the blood that was shed on that cross (1 Jn 1:7). They taught me about grace, forgiveness, mercy, healing, and how very much God loves me (Ro 5:6-8, Col 3:12-17). They taught me about baptism, and how I would be buried with Christ in the water, and raised to a new life in Him. ( Mk 16:16, Ro 6:3-4, Eph 4:5, Col 2:12, 1 Pe 3:21) I would be clean.
We cried, we prayed, we confessed sins, and through it all, I found hope. Hope that I wasn’t trapped in that dark, murky pit of despair forever. Hope that I was worth something. Hope that I was loved more than I could ever understand, despite what a wretched, broken, imperfect person I was.
Hope that I would be okay.
I was baptized late on the night of November 22, 1987, and born into a new life. I have never forgotten my confession of faith, “Jesus is Lord.” He is still the Lord of my life, and always will be. I am clean.
I do not claim to be perfect; I never have. I do not claim to know it all; I never will. But I do claim Jesus as my Lord, and God as my ever-loving heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit as my guide and counselor. Although I fall short often and make mistakes daily, I still try to live as He wants me to live. Because He loved me first.
For more information, download the YouVersion Bible app. It’s free. I’d encourage you to read the books of John, Acts, Romans, and Ephesians. Seek the Truth. Find a church. Fellowship with others who believe, because it gives us strength and encourages us to remain faithful. Reach out to your friends and neighbors, and share the Hope for which you live.
You are loved more than you can ever understand. Wholly. Deeply. Unconditionally. (Jn. 3:16)