How did your baptism take place? Did it have any similarities with Jesus’ baptism? I confess, beyond the presence of water, my baptisms did not. I say baptisms, because I had two. The first was as a new born in the First Presbyterian Church of Enid Oklahoma early in 1953. That one was not a dunking. It was a sprinkling. And judging by the fairly clueless and godless behavior of my first 23 years, a dunking might have been better. The second was a dunking that took place in the Tulsa Edison high school swimming pool in the spring of 1976. I don’t know if it was the full immersion, the chlorine or what, but things were much different after that one. I am being silly of course. The difference on this occasion was that I had been given a new heart.
It didn’t happen as I was emerging from the waters of baptism #2, that I heard a voice from heaven trumpeting, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” It happened a few months later after I had spent a night in revelry. (I just checked the definition on this and, yes, it was revelry). It was a lifestyle I had been perfecting since I was 13. Based on the hollow and lifeless feeling that was oppressing my soul the next day, I was certain that I had lost my salvation.
There were those familiar voices again playing in my head ; “Robby, you could screw up an anvil with a rubber mallet. You have lost the best thing that you ever had. How typical of you to ruin this just like you ruin everything. You are a looser!” I had not heard this voice, this loud since surrendering my life to Christ a few months earlier. This was the voice of death. It had been stalking me for years. I cried out to the Lord as I was driving back to Tulsa from Enid, “Lord, I cannot bear to live without You! Even though I deserve it, please, please, please do not abandon me. I simply will die without you.”
What happened next is why I am not a Baptist (or a Presbyterian). I told this story to a few of them and their response pretty much uninvited me from their company. Perhaps you will too. However its part of my story so I am not ashamed of it.
Why, I do not know, but I began to weep. My tears turned into a flood; a torrent of emotion poured out of me, the likes of which I had never experienced. Now I am scared; I thought I was loosing my mind plus my salvation, “So this is the judgement of God!” As it turned out I had not lost my salvation and if anything, some sanity was restored to me.
The next hour was the sweetest and most powerful 60 minutes of my life. I will not relate it all here, but suffice it to say, the Lord got it across that I too was His beloved and He was well please with me. Astounding! Given His most excellent communication skills, He also got it across that He would never leave nor forsake me. Oh yes, one more thing that He made resoundingly clear, the name of Jesus is gloriously majestic in all creation! You might ask, “In what ways have you been more holy since this encounter? What wisdom did you came away with?” As to holiness, I for sure vowed to never ever revel again. I report that I have only been moderately successful in this. As to wisdom (and here is the big takeaway); Make double-darn sure you have a very secure bond of friendship before you share extra-curricula encounters with bible-only revelation folks.
This living real-time word put a hammer blow to the old voices of my past. I regret to say however that my revelation did not liberate me completely from them. There were almost three decades where those voices were spoken much more subtly to me but no less life threatening. Condemnation is every bit as potent in the context of religion as it is in sin. I have never doubted my sonship since that day. I was certainly a messed up son at many places along the trail. But, I was His messed-up son. Being His son is the truest and most powerful thing about me. Who are you? I am Rob Cummins, God’s son. As Nouwen said,
“…..all the circumstances in between will not negate that. And by the way, I forgive all my sola scriptura family members for their doubts. I truly appreciate your concern for my sanity and salvation.
Father, by whatever means it requires, permit us to discover and live our lives out of our birthright-identities, that in their secure and restful posture, they may reflect how generous, kind, strong and faithful a Father You are. And, may we be muzzled until such a time as our hearts are sufficiently conquered by Your love and until our words and deeds are adequately flavored by Your grace. Amen.