Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Watery Grave

Hans lowered me into my watery grave today.
I proclaimed my death. I was buried, and I was raised.
Among God's people, I declared my testimony:

It was Easter Day 1982. Among a congregation in Indonesia, my parents brought me before the Lord in baptism. I was around Yohanan's age, about five or six months-old. They offered me to the Lord in faith and according to their conviction. This was their love for me.

As I was growing up, Pa and Ma continually taught me the way of the Lord. They reminded me daily that my life belonged to God, and that Jesus is always near. They taught me to treasure the Word of God. Christ was the foundation of our home, I never doubted this. I stand here today, because of my Papa and my Mama. I am who I am because of their labor and their love.

When I was around 14, I was slowly awaken and made alive in Christ. His Spirit became real to my young mind. I realized the evil that was in my heart, and asked for his blood to wash away my sins. My sister Jean told me that for the first time in her life, I treated her like a sister -- I was actually nice to her. Ouch.

On Easter Day 1995, I underwent confirmation and began partaking the Holy Communion. I looked forward to this every month. This, too, was precious to me.

Six years ago, in 2004, after many months of studying the Scripture, I came to a different understanding of baptism. I came to believe that baptism is a believer's proclamation of repentance--a turning away from the world--toward faith and obedience to Christ. In baptism, the believer identifies with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. Thus, immersion, the dipping of the entire body in water, is our public proclamation of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection.

What immediately follows is this: I realized that I have not been baptized. I was not a believer during my infant baptism.

That was six years ago.

Accepting the truth that I was not baptized was most difficult, most painful for me. If I indeed believe that I have not been baptized, then I should, right? Because God commands it in his Word. But for a long, long time, I could not bring myself to do this.

Surely, the Lord would understand how difficult this is for me. Surely, he would make an exception for this disobedience. So I brushed the thought aside; I hid it under the carpet, hoping that no one would ask, no one would notice.

This act of my parents, bringing me before the Lord in baptism left a deep impression, a lasting mark on me. It was a sign of God's faithfulness and my salvation. It was my parents gift to me; it signified their promise to bring me up in the way of the Lord. These things were precious to me and I did not want to let them go. These things were more dear to me than my immediate obedience.

I felt like a man who was given a gem. It was blue and it was gleaming. He thought was a sapphire. He placed it in his treasure chest, loved it, and admired it for many years. Years later, he finds out that it was not sapphire after all.

When someone first proposed that the Earth was not flat and we were not the center of the universe, I am like the people who refused reason and rejected all evidence.

Admitting that I have been wrong was hard; changing was even harder.

During this Christmas season, I think of Mary and Joseph, Peter and John, and the first disciples, even the Pharisees and other religious leaders of Jesus' day. Each had their own conception of a Messiah -- how he would look like, the way their savior would come, how their King would deliver them. No one imagined God as a helpless baby among sheep and goats. No, not a God-man crucified among criminals.

To have faith was to first admit that they were wrong, that they did not have the right understanding; and to believe the words of Christ, that he was indeed God in human flesh.

The Lord is kind and patient. He is a merciful God. He is gentle in the discipline of his children. So very gentle.

I was wrong. So the gem was not sapphire. And that's OK, because the light it reflects is still true and still real. It is still blue, gleaming and unchanged. The Earth was neither flat nor were we at center of the universe. And that's OK, because the sun rises every morning, and the God who made the stars is unchanging.

What my parents gave me was not baptism, but this does not change their gift to me -- the knowledge of the one true God, and he is real.

He remains the same -- every Easter, every Christmas.
My life has never been my own, because He has always been my Creator.
I now belong to Christ. I now bear the mark of his death, burial, and resurrection.


Jean Tsen said...

my dearest jieji,
thank you for being an example always before your younger sisters. for taking up that task coming out of the Father's hands who foreknew that you would be one fit for such a task. thank you for being an example of what honoring pama looks like, as you have beautifully done in this post. i am reprimanded and it brought me to repentance. thank you for being an example of what obedience to the Lord looks like--does not sacrifice the other things God requires of us, such as honoring out parents. and this was the thing that broke me--the thought that i lost the opportunity to witness the beautiful image of Christ sanctifying His Bride by the example of ge baptizing you. what a day of testifying of the Lord in many, many ways. let those with ears hear and eyes see. for how good do the ways of the Lord taste. how good does redemption taste. how good has He been to us Tsen family as unworthy recipients of His grace.

love, shin

p.s. sorry to bum you with this but the way i remembered you were being baptized today was when a non-Christian Chinese friend at church asked me about baptism and its purpose and i was giving you as an example. and'! >.<|
see...i still struggle to be a sister to you myself.
p.p.s. you did not do your story justice about my witness of your change. it left such an impression on 10-yr-old me i believe because that may have been the first time the love of Christ came alive to me when it had gone unnoticed before (by pama's example of it of course). let me be specific. that day, instead of your common complaint of being served too much rice on your plate (since you were on a diet), you rushed to serve ME rice before yourself, and did so with a smile on your face and a loving voice, like it actually made you so happy to serve me. i just haven't been served like that before, to my memory. that's why this memory is imprinted on my mind. that was my first taste of the transformation of the Gospel.
p.p.p.s. thank you for loving me. i love you.

winifredlam said...

:)))))))) Jean and Irene :)

Dear Irene..thank you for sharing so openly, so heart is blessed

Seda said...

Thanks for your words, Jeanjean. =) i love you.

Wini -- thanks for reading. =) it blesses me to have you as a witness, though far away.

ruth@gracelaced said...

I'm so blessed by this post. I'm encouraged by your humility, and the desire to obey. Being in ministry, we've seen many wrestle through this doctrine, and the same upbringing you experienced. However, many we've known have not followed through to a willingness in believer's baptism. Praise the Lord for your testimony and for the great significance of this occasion!

E! said...