• Parking Team BaptismI remember the vacation Bible school in 1982. I remember the sheep brought into the church foyer and the Mickey Mouse wallpaper in the nursery next to where I had my picture taken with that sheep. I remember praying with Mom and Dad next to their bed—remember looking up into their closet at all the LP’s on the top shelf. I remember getting baptized the Sunday night after VBS with Kerri Kirchmeyer.

    I don’t remember the intersection with God.

    I got scared by the original Left Behind movie series and asked God to save me, praying from a beanbag chair in the library my Dad’s church rented for services. I reaffirmed my commitment at the Bill Rice Ranch during summer camp—and tens of times in my teens and college years . . . maybe even into my married life.

    Following Christ was a matter of living up to standards, doing the do’s and avoiding the don’t’s. I believed all the right stuff—the true Gospel, and I had a personal relationship with God. It was real but rarely alive.

    After leaving the structure of my fundamentalist family and college, I managed to maintain the works-based-favor system for a year or so of marriage. Then, despite Crystal’s efforts, things began to slowly deteriorate in my spiritual life with commercial breaks for small breakthroughs. I got into church leadership but was struggling with consistency, passion, and relinquishing.

    Eventually, I started swearing, imbibing questionable media, even checked out pornography. I fell into an emotional attachment with one of my wife’s good friends and almost initiated an affair with her. I realized something had to change. My spiritually-bold wife said, “You’re the spiritual leader of this home. You figure it out.” We both agreed a church change [from our Spanish-speaking assembly (I don't speak Spanish)], at least for me, would be a good first step.

    My shopping for churches didn’t last long. Within weeks of attending Blue Ridge and wrestling with its incongruence with the churches I’d attended, I jumped into the pursuit of a more authentic relationship with God. Small group and discipleship environments quickly penetrated my spiritual perspective, will, and practice. Soon, others were telling me that they could see life change in me.

    About ten months into this journey, I was tapped to lead a small DVD-driven class. After that, I was elected the leader of a small home study group. Talking with Dave Kountz (one of my pastors) about this new challenge and responsibility, I asked him about the church’s criteria for leadership. He said they borrowed some wisdom from Mosaic in that they look for people whose response times to God’s prompting are continually growing shorter.

    That Sunday, with my parents visiting town but in another church, Jeremy (one of our teaching/pastoral team) spoke on baptism—about making it more than a ritual, pushing it past the perfunctory, unleashing it as a declaration of our faith.

    Intentional. Boldly. Joyfully. Those descriptors weren’t part of my baptism memory—neither when I was sprinkled a Lutheran or dunked a Baptist. With Dave’s words just 45 hours old in me, I said yes to God. I had to wait through two songs to approach a church staffer about my decision. Tears streamed my face as I opened my physical and spiritual posture in response to God’s moving.

    Two weeks later, I stepped barefoot up onto the platform and in front of the microphone for the required name-giving. “I’m two decades late; but I’m Ryan Timothy George, and Christ is alive. And he is alive in me.” In my neon parking vest and swim trunks, I boldly walked across the stage to be baptized by both Todd Foster, my worship hero, and Crystal, my example of realness, in front of hundreds of people. I rose from the water triumphant, arms raised. Then I hugged almost everyone around me.

    This was what baptism was meant to be, how it was supposed to feel, what it was created to communicate. It’s designed to be one of the most monumental days in life, a watershed moment.

    For me—at least this time—it was.

    This entry was posted on Sunday, May 27th, 2007 at 11:00 pm and is filed under Ponderlust. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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