May 10th of last year, Mother's day I was baptized. Getting baptized to me was just like getting married. I felt the commitment, the love, the passion, but how would my life, my relationship with Jesus Christ will change?
As I got up May 10th 2009 partially to my alarm and partially to my fear of being discovered, I felt an excitement, a peace, a relationship I thought I would never have.
I knew I had to be up and out of my storage shed, where I had been staying for the last couple months before people started entering and the manager showed up.
Like most mornings while sleeping in this shed, which I had made into a makeshift apartment, I went over to my bucket of water I renewed last night and take a relatively fresh towel and douse it and then proceed to 'sponge bath' myself. I do not know why, but the face is the most important part, if my face feels clean, the rest of me feel even that much cleaner.
The choice of clothes narrowed since doing laundry is not a luxury; my last batch was hand washed in my bucket using leftover shampoo I happened to have. From time to time, I did receive some money, either a loan from my friend or because I sold some of my belongings. With some money I had, I bought a spray which contained bleach. This spray, as with bleach changed the color of the clothes, thus I only used it on the inside of the clothes. This spray was a great saver, it killed of course germs, like under the arm type stuff but also made the clothes smell fresh out of the laundry, and at least I thought and hoped.
I dressed in my best jeans, cleanest T-shirt and today even shouldered a button down shirt, for I was going to be baptized. I Finish up by wetting my hair and brushing it straight back. Found the shoe string I extracted from my tennis shoe the night before and tied it around my right angle, over the pants so my jeans would not get caught in the spokes of my bicycle.
I also had to pack my bag carefully and make sure I did not miss anything. Returning to the storage shed during the day was not a smart maneuver. It exposed how the storage shed was set up and indicated it has more than just objects in it. I had to make sure I carried even a change of clothes in my bag, computer, books, power cords, food, or anything else I might need for the next 18 hours.
I looped the shoulder bag over around my back so it sat just about the middle, I mounted my faithful Mountain Bike and glided over the push password box and entered my code. Slowly the gate would slide open and I would peddle my bike through and then make a sharp right to get to my first destination, Starbucks, without much notice.
To get out with as little notice as possible, I was usually heading to Starbucks around 6:30 AM and today, my baptism does not start until 9:00 AM, so I have a little time to myself. Today, as most days, I start by reading the Bible, writing in my journal and responding to potential job offers.
Around 8:30 AM, I mount my bike again, which I hid around the corner by the trash bin at Starbucks, and throw my bag over my shoulder, but this time it does not sit right on my back, it hits the bike seat and causes it so swing right or left when I stand to mount the seat. This causes two challenges, firstly I am off balance and two it gets in the way of riding. With effort, I try to swing it back to where it should be without causing me to swerve into something stationary or cause the swaying of the bag to throw my balance off enough to where I have to start over getting going again.
The ride to the church is uneventful. As usual, I am the only bike on the road, an odd feeling in a town with sidewalks, young people and great weather one might think they would be filled with them. I have my routine down. I cross the street back towards Starbucks then ride behind the RaceTrack gas station, then dart back across the street in a free break in traffic and charge up the sidewalk.
Down to the Town Square, where the multitude of shops, restaurants and the movie theater are, then back across the street. I will stay on this side of the street for the remaining part of the ride. The sidewalks are partial here; I know I have to cross four thresholds of grass before I will arrive at the church driveway.
Some mornings everything goes very well across these tracks, but it depends on the path, speed and how much they water the night before to whether it is a clean crossing. Today, even though my day to be baptized, one patch of grass has been watered and a bit sloppy lake like, so I get a spraying of water and mud all over me, but it's not to think and appears to have the ability to dry without a mark.
The parking lot of the church is full, there are a total of 5 services available, thus the parking lot is continually full until after the last service and people are always around. I am somewhat self-conscious riding my bike to church, thus come to the exit and enter from the sidecars don't usually drive through.
I found a great spot for my bike, to hide it from being noticed, thus limited embarrassment and for protection from being possibly stolen. In front of the church, there is about a 5' white brick wall, it hides the AC units for this section of the church. There is enough room between the wall and the A/C units to put my bike, so I gently slide it between the two. I grab my bible from one of the compartments of my bag and place it gently next to the front wheel of my bike.
I head over to the sanctuary I am to be baptized. In my pass over, I stop in the main lobby and grab a donut and a quick cup of coffee and then I run into Ed. Ed is a member of the church and is part of a group called "Stephen's Ministry" and he has been there to counsel and listen to me and to help guide me for the last several months. As I shake hands with him and embrace in a hug, he asks me, "Did you ride your bike?" I smiled and said of course!
That was about a year ago. Today, I went to church. I work up to the same alarm I did a year ago, but I did not have to get up and leave because of the lurking possibility of being discovered, in fact, I ignored the alarm and continued to sleep a bit longer. My bed is soft and my blanket and comforter soft and clean. I have a selection of clean clothes to choose from, but wonderfully more is I get up and get into a warm shower and shave with ease.
I walk down the few stairs from my loft of a bedroom; admire the artwork of my younger children abound on the walls and the floor. I open my front door of my warm, carpeted apartment and get into my 1995 excellent running and reasonably kept Lincoln Continental and drove to Church.
Today I still wonder how my life has been changed by my renewed relationship with Christ. Even though a tremendous amount has changed, I still this question, I ask this question because I do not feel as though I can have a close enough relationship with Jesus Christ and never feel like I want to be content with the relationship I have. Each day, I want to try harder to server Jesus Christ even more.
Even though, with all my honesty I could tell you I feel as close to Jesus Christ today as I did last year the day I was baptized, my life, my outlook, my faith, and love have all changed for the better. Is my life easier, no it has not if anything it has gotten harder? Harder because I have greater wisdom, faith, and love I did not have before. So why is my life harder, it is because I struggle with my own vision of my limitations and the ones God has for me. And constantly, when I feel I am out of capacity, I continue to have more. And having more love, faith, forgiveness, argues against my personal self-logic of why I should extend myself anymore. But I realize, I am not extending anything, it's is God's will and if God can do it and ask me to do it, then I can do it, but it does not always make it easy.
I guess it's no different than a coach believing the student can do more than the student believes themselves they can do as well as the teacher knowing the why the student needs to learn the lesson.
I look forward to my next year. I know I still have so many obstacles to overcome, I know I will feel like I did this last year, that I was making no progress, my relationship with God and Jesus Christ needs even more work, but in the end I can say I learned even more lessons and been able to extend my love, grace, faith, and forgiveness even more.
With All My Prayers and Blessings,