By TONJA MURPHY
So, I can be baptized again?
Picture it. Jackson, Mississippi. Fall of 2018. I was listening to a sermon during a Sunday morning service. My pastor — led by the Holy Spirit — extended an invitation during the conclusion of her sermon to those who wanted to be baptized to alert the church office. That way the elders could prepare for the upcoming baptismal service the following Sunday. She always encouraged baptism, especially for those who’d made the decision to accept Christ. However, that particular Sunday was different; she invited anyone who felt a need to be baptized again to do the same.
I thought to myself, “So, let me get this right. I can be baptized again?” The invitation felt personal. While sitting among a congregation of hundreds of members, it was as if God was speaking directly to my heart: “This invitation is for you.” Although I had thought about and even written about being baptized at 6 years of age, I’d never considered being baptized a second time. Back then I was so tiny, my baptismal gown could only have been called a flotation device. When I was laid back into the water, I literally floated and got a few sprinkles of water on me.
I clearly remember I was barely submerged that day without question of whether I wanted to be baptized. I smiled while onlookers clapped as I received a small New Testament Bible and hugs from senior members of the church who commended me for making one of the best decisions of my life. I guess everyone forgot I didn’t make the decision. I personally don’t believe a 6-year-old could make such an important decision. The decision was basically made for me. I’d learn later in life how important a decision it actually was.
After having reared my own children, I believe most parents’ decisions are grounded in experiences, and those experiences shape how they eventually parent. Just like they didn’t ask me then, which was okay considering the era, I didn’t ask permission to be baptized a second time as an adult. Honestly, I didn’t have to. My natural father, a Baptist pastor who is now deceased, would have respected my decision. He knew me to be a thoughtful decision maker; I’m certain my mother will agree. To this day, I don’t regret the decision my parents made for me in the summer of 1979. However, as a middle-aged woman, I needed to discover why my pastor’s invitation to be baptized again fell on my heart so heavily.
No matter my age, I’ve always felt like part of a church family, and Jackson Revival Center Church has been family for over 20 years. In my opinion, church families are comparable to natural families in that maturity is achieved individually and collectively. Though unlike in my natural family, connectivity with my church family wasn’t automatic, because there is no DNA shared, and we see each other occasionally rather than daily. Consequently, I’d never explored cultivating love and relationships with my church family, and had only gravitated toward people or groups in the church who shared my interests. My second baptism was borne out of a need to love and relate beyond interests and, through the blood of Jesus, connect with others as a family of believers.
Plenty of times I’d rejoiced while witnessing others baptized, including my children and other family members. It was easy to rejoice in their decision. Until that day, I had never considered being baptized again, but I wanted to rejoice with my church family over my choice to be baptized. As I contemplated my decision, I wanted to also be sure I understood the significance of baptism. What did the immersion into the water signify? In my research, this scripture stuck out:
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” – Romans 6:4, KJV
I desired the newness referenced in this verse, to be dead to the power of sin. Therefore, I decided that, during the first baptismal service of 2019, I would take that step. This time I was fully submerged and brought back up anew. My second baptism and celebrating with my church family is an experience I will always remember. My family and I now have a deeper connection beyond our common interests. The newness I’ve experienced through baptism truly has been one the best decisions of my adult life.
Tonja Murphy is a writer, lover of life and self-professed Crock-Pot Queen who enjoys working with youth throughout the city of Jackson. To reach her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.