The Inner Voice of Who Knows What

the pilgrimage: Henri Nouwen and my own topsy-turvy little heart

I’m going to Hell… Woot!

Who knew?

Evidently a friend of mine did. I had no idea, but I’m so very glad she clued me in to my faithless and heathenistic shortcomings… Oh, how the glorious venue of Teazer can be defiled by such ridiculosity.

So, I’m headed down the path to that fiery place. The reason: I have not been baptized.

According to my Mennonite tradition (I use the word intentionally) baptism is a symbol, a public act of commitment to following the way of Jesus in community with other followers. It is also symbolic of pledging allegiance to the kingdom of God through a public display of faith. I love it.

But according to my friend’s tradition, baptism is synonymous with ‘salvation.’ Salvation itself is another matter entirely, but let’s assume for the moment that is has to do with my soul being in right relationship with God and the assurance that my afterlife is one of happy heaven-filled goodness. This salvation, as she describes it, is dependent on a six-step process, so far incomplete in my life.

1. Hear the Gospel.
2. Believe.
3. Repent of past sins.
4. Confess Jesus as Lord.
5. Be baptized for the remission of sins.
6. Live a Christian life.

Now, I’m going to be prideful and say that I have completed (or have tried my best to complete) five of these steps. But the order of my ‘steps to salvation’ has been a bit askew, and so I’m stuck in that awkward in-between stage between confessing and being baptized. Sounds like puberty, ugh. In my friend’s mind, this means that I am not fully ‘saved’ but instead am missing a crucial part of the formula to eternal life.

So… all my attempts the past several years, in the stage between confession and baptism, all my attempts at living a life pleasing to God, following God’s command, striving to imitate Jesus’ example – all this is in vain because I haven’t followed one rule? A wise man brought up the point that Jesus also lays out a rule to cut off our hands and gouge out our eyes. That’s pleasant.

1. Hear the Gospel.
2. Believe.
3. Repent of past sins.
4. Confess Jesus as Lord.
5. Be baptized for the remission of sins.
6. Gouge out eyes.
7. Cut off hands (you decide, one or two).
8. Figure out how to function handless and blind.
9. Live a Christian life.
10. Good luck. Sorry guys, it’s the rules.

Maybe I’m just too anti-rules – horrific, anarchic, mutinous rebel that I am.

This anti-rules sentiment is the reason I’ve never been baptized in the first place. Baptism, as manipulated by man and man’s desire for power, has become an unfortunate element of church politics. I have not (yet) found myself in a place and time where I felt ready to commit to membership in a particular church through baptism, and felt I fully understood all that that entails. It’s not that I don’t want to be baptized, I really would love to be. But my personal convictions lead me to choose when and where carefully.

My friend proceeded to let me know that I was either not ready to repent, or not focusing on God enough. Maybe I should just pray harder… But, you know, I wonder if I am even allowed to pray, if the Holy Spirit hasn’t entered me through baptism yet? Tricksy little argument cycle there.

It sounds pretty hopeless for me until I get my whole head underwater.
It sounds like I better do it quickly, or my soul may be in jeopardy.
Excuse me while I run to the nearest river and jump in, for fear I die of catching pneumonia from my wonderful baptism.

But first, I leave you with a song. Enjoy.

I am a C
I am a C-H
I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N. (Oh yes, I am!)
I have been B-A-P-T-I-Z-E-D with the S-P-I-R-I-T
But more importantly, with W-A-T-E-R (Splash!)
And not just any W-A-T-E-R – W-A-T-E-R I’ve been D-U-N-K-E-D in
D-U-N-K, I say D-U-N-K, full I-M-M-E-R-S-I-O-N (hand claps 2x)
We do no S-I-S-S-Y little S-P-R-I-N-K-L-E-S (Boo!)
And I have C-H-R-I-S-T in my H-E-A-R-T
And I will L-I-V-E E-T-E-R-N-A-L-L-Y
According to the S-I-X-S-T-E-P P-R-O-C-E-S-S!
(S-U-C-K-A-H!)

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