I became a Christian when I was 7. Or at least, I got baptized when I was 7. Is there a difference?
I believe there is and this... is why I will be "getting dunked" in Barton Springs on June 5th.
I think there are definitely people (even children) who make a conscious decision to love and follow Jesus and get baptized as a public display of their faith, all at the same time. This was not my experience, however. My commitment to love and follow Christ came about 23 years after I got baptized (ouch)!
I have a very vivid memory of being at Church one night, in the Church I grew up in, and hearing a Sunday School Teacher talk about a prayer we needed to pray to ask Jesus into our hearts so that we could go to heaven. I remember seeing two of my friends, Sara and Emily , walk down to the front of the room to "pray the prayer" and I remember thinking I didn't want to get left out of whatever this was they were doing. (Basically, I didn't want to be going to this place called hell all by myself, right?! I mean, it sounded awful!) I had no concept of the gospel at this time and no idea what grace was or what it meant for Jesus to actually take my place on the cross and die a death that I deserved, so that I could live a life I didn't deserve. It wasn't really about Jesus for me at all, rather about wanting to "fit in"... and live in the clouds rather in some hot fiery dungeon where people are gnashing their teeth at each other. (And I also didn't want some little old Southern Baptist woman mad at me:)
Since then and up until about 3 years ago, I lived a life that was not God-honoring. Much like that of the younger brother in Luke 15:11-32. Because I lived my life that way, I have a greater understanding of God's grace and mercy on my life than I ever did. I have a greater understanding of why Jesus had to go to the cross on my behalf. I have a deeper love for Christ and understand that it is only by His grace that my life looks different than it did, that my marriage looks different than it did. Sometimes, I'll find myself completely overwhelmed with gratitude that He chose to intervene in my life, even if it was painful at the time that He did.
I feel, in a way, that I really just became a Christian a few years ago because that is when I began to understand not only how much God loves me, but also what it cost Him to love me so. Because I now understand (am continuing to understand) that, I want to publicly profess my faith in Christ and also my commitment to love, follow and serve Him in front of my friends, my children, my husband and even people I don't know.
I love what Baptism signifies: It signifies that the person's former way of life has been put to death and in it's place, a new life, in the image of God is resurrected!
I've really been praying about this decision and part of me was hesitant at first, to do this for many reasons: 1. A lot of people at Barton Springs that day probably have a very strong opinion of "Christians" or "Jesus" and don't want a baptism invading their Sunday afternoon. 2. I'm pregnant and not excited about getting out in a swimsuit in front of everyone (I'm hoping a moo moo is an option. If so, I know just where to go. And I won't say any names. Mom and Gran.). 3. I don't like a lot of attention on me.
As I prayed about this decision, I asked God to remove the distractions. As He did, I actually got excited to do this so publicly!
So, I'm not sure if it'll be in a moo moo or an XL maternity swimsuit but I'll be getting baptized at Barton Springs on June 5th!