Thursday, June 2, 2016
My first act of rebellion was to leave the Baptist Church my family attended, at age twelve & run down the street to join the Methodist Church. They had the younger, cooler minister, Al Morris. I was sprinkled in the church & what I recall most all these years later is my body was shaking uncontrollably during the baptism. It was not fear. My thoughts now are God knew that very soon I would depart down about every bad road a young boy/man could venture. It was as if He were shaking me with His presence & at the same time telling me that my hand is upon you & you will return to me.
At age nineteen as I walked down a lonely dark road one night-A life wrought with heartache. A life where the parties began early & often only ended early the next morning as I would crawl into bed as the sunrise came. No drug untouched. No opportunity for searching for fun in all the wrong places. I am not going to tell you I did not have a good time. There is pleasure in sin for a season but I was always a searcher & at times the life grew weary & I knew there had to be more.
That night, God showed up. He spoke & it all changed. It was such a life transformation that it would have been better for society & me if I could have been sent away to some secluded quiet place for two years while maybe I could learn to live with the truth of the Gospel.
As it is I made many bad choices. One in particular that years later would result in divorce when my son was two years old. The battles in court. The pain of not having your child with you each night. The long drive home after dropping him off at his Mom's. As time passed I became angry with this God who had such power that He showed up one night on a dark road but would not grant fairness in my life.
I went back to the party life. Never to the degree that I lived in my youth. But soon life became about clubbing, searching for that certain woman. This life grew old as well & I began to stay home alone with my anger at God.
Later in my life I was in my mid fifties & I began to attend church but I still held on to what I wanted more than what God wanted. Being a Christian can be a pretty generic term. I always sensed that for me- to really be a Christian was when I cared more about what God wanted for my life than what I wanted. Through it all, even the Born Again Damascus Road experience I never really did that.
It was January of 2012. I was driving down the road when I said, "God, I have made a mess of everything I have touched. You take the wheel. I will place what you want in my life above my own desires, even if it is not what I want. Where You say go. I will go. " That was my moment that led to yesterday. To be baptized with more understanding. More understanding that I can't live a mixture of law & grace as was often preached in my earlier days. It is His grace. Period.
It has been on my heart to be baptized since last year about this time. I wanted to be baptized in my sanctuary-the ocean. Lifepoint has an annual baptism each summer in August. I was recovering from ankle surgery & could not participate last summer.
One day this spring, I met with Jack Teachey at Lifepoint about serving. I mentioned about my desire to be baptized. He responded with, "If this is on your heart you don't need to wait till August. I will meet you wherever you want me too." He completely got me about wanting it to take place on the beach.
Wow! I did not even know that was an option. So yesterday, my wife, Julie, Kim Williamson, my small group leader, Randy Dallos, who I began serving with at the First Time Guests booth, & Jack met at my adopted family's home on Carolina Beach.
I was able to be baptized right where Julie & I were married a little over three years ago.
It was raining pretty hard mid afternoon & I heard thunder in the distance. But when our time to meet at the beach came it was beautiful. The sun came out. Beautiful cloud formations & God decided to favor His child with a rainbow. As someone commented on Facebook last night that they didn't know that was my rainbow they saw. Yes, it was.
One last thing that I did not think about until I was home. I noticed no one on the beach but us. It was our private time. Anyone that spends time on the beach knows late in the day there are walkers, joggers, people taking their dogs for a stroll. I saw none of that.
This was a step that I felt God, for whatever reasons, wanted me to take before He takes us to the next step.
I can hardly wait.