Sacrament: Baptism

The other day, I asked my cousin if he remembered what church I was baptized in.

(I realize I could ask my parents, but I’m not ready to tell them why this is relevant…)

He didn’t know, which I suspected, since he was in high school at the time. But what he remembered instead surprised me, because for a moment I’d forgotten who my godmother was—his mother.

I can picture so clearly my mother holding you at the altar.
After you were born, the conversation of godmother came up and your grandmother and mother just said, “well, it’s got to be Aunt E!” My mom was already in her late 50s and I remember her just beaming at the church!

We weren’t close to that side of the family growing up, and regrettably I couldn’t make the funeral when she passed away during my college years. But Aunt Edith was a good, honest soul. I may not have been raised in the Church. I may be doing this much, much later than most. But I still feel like she’s guiding me through it. She very well may be.

One day I’ll discover what church it was, and I’ll visit again. And I’ll picture Aunt Edith up there with my parents, and with me, beginning this journey long before I even knew I’d be taking it.

Ezekiel 36:11

I will cause you to be inhabited as in your former times, and will do more good to you than ever before. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

Sometimes in your readings, verses jump out at you. You pause, and read it again. Then you take off your reading glasses and close the book, just for a minute or maybe ten, because you’re sobbing uncontrollably. Because in those words, there’s hope.

The Israelites messed up. I mean, these people had it all—they were God’s chosen. Like, when God personally leads you through the desert, you’re doing pretty all right. But they got comfortable. They got proud. Little by little, their priorities shifted. Until they were seeking their own glory, and worshipping gods that were not Him. But they repented. And God forgave them. Then they stumbled, again, and they cried to God, again, and He forgave them. Again. Repeat about eighteen hundred times.

Until God said, No more. And they were taken into captivity.

Israel was broken. Isaiah and Ezekiel spend chapter after chapter prophesying their destruction. But then: God makes a new promise. Sure, they’ll inhabit their own land again, eventually. But it’s not going to be the same. It’s going to be better.

I’ve been asked, “How did you listen to God?”
I didn’t. And I continued to not listen. As a result, He started stripping things away. Gradually at first. An attempt to get me to notice Him. To listen. And I continued to not listen, until I found myself sobbing on the living room floor because I felt empty and alone.

He didn’t just break me. I was shattered.

But then… I began to pray.

Every day. All day. I consulted Him for seemingly minor things. I consulted Him for seemingly major things. And He showed me my priorities. And wouldn’t you know it… I had them messed up. I mean, you don’t get to the breaking point by doing everything right, after all.

And just like the Israelites, He started to rebuild me. Not into the person I once was. There was no picking up those pieces, even if they were worth salvaging. He was building a new creature, one that was more good than ever before.

Vision of the Night

I was five years old when I prayed for the first time. I don’t know what made me do it. We weren’t a church-going family at the time, and it’s not like my five-year-old friends were talking about God. I probably saw someone do it on TV. I didn’t know what people prayed about, but it looked like something I should do. So that night I folded my hands together, squeezed my eyes shut, and talked to this magical Being in the sky.

I hadn’t started school yet, and I was nervous about taking the bus. School itself didn’t bother me, apparently, but the bus did. So I asked God for a very specific dream that night. About getting on a bus, and the adventures that bus would take. Maybe seeing a bus driver in a dream would help me be less nervous about seeing one in person. (Why else would people pray at night, if not for nice dreams?)

And wouldn’t you know, I had that exact dream that night.

I’d tried praying this way again later, but the dream magic didn’t happen. Rather than get discouraged, I understood: prayer wasn’t merely to have nice dreams, even though He’d answered the first time. He answered in a different way the second—No, He seemed to say. There’s more to this than that.

Sometimes I still don’t understand that simple concept—there’s more to this. But when He doesn’t answer my prayer in the exact way I wanted, He eventually shows me what this is really about. And it’s so much grander than simply a dream.