This past weekend was the most meaningful Easter weekend I have ever experienced. For the past two years, we have slowly been becoming more involved in our church, Riversgate, and closer to God. Prior to that, we had always believed in God, just never really lived a spiritual life. Curt and I came to the decision when we moved to Portland that something was missing in our lives. And that was God. So we sought to find a church that we both felt comfortable going to. After visiting three churches, we finally showed up at Riversgate, located in the center of our neighborhood that everyone calls “The village.”
I was immediately drawn to it’s quaint size and integration into the community. After all, Riversgate has only one weekly service which is held in the rented auditorium of a community arts center. Not fond of the idea of going to a church with multiple services, I hoped to find a place where it could be possible to get to know everyone in the church body, or at least their names. I had gotten lost in the crowds of bigger churches, just showing up and leaving right after each worship service and just never enjoyed going. I wanted to be part of a spiritual family, where I could feel that I was surrounded by people who knew and truly cared about me.
Thank God for a persistent, always-smiling woman with the same name, who found out we were wanting to get more involved in the church and made sure never to let us leave a service without saying hello. We became a part of their weekly bible study group, meeting every Thursday to recap our week, read and discuss the Bible and just encourage each other. I’ll admit, at first, it was a little difficult for me. Never before had I professed my faith aloud to others, let alone people I didn’t really know well. Plus, I felt so unchristian-like. But, I came to realize that none of us was perfect and we were all sinners. In retrospect, I think that was always my misconception with religion and Christianity. I always felt that I had to be the perfect person in order to go to church, that I had to have my act together because I would be surrounded by perfect people. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. I finally realized that going to church is like going to AA meetings. We all admit that we need help, that we can’t make it on our own, that we are all flawed, that we all have baggage. That is why we are there, to find peace and meaning in the chaos of life.
Fast forward two years later and we have made some great friends through our church, have grown much closer to God and feel surrounded by family there. This Good Friday, we participated in an event at a local park whereby we walked a route similar in length to that walked by Jesus that fateful day taking turns holding a cross. It was the most beautiful night (no rain, yay!) and in the silence of everyone’s contemplation, I just envisioned what Jesus endured that day. It was incredibly moving.
On Easter Sunday, I got ready for church knowing that I would be one of a few who would be baptized. Being baptized was something I have always wanted to do, but never really had the opportunity, primarily because I never found a church I felt comfortable at. Thankfully, Riversgate offers a baptism service every Easter Sunday and I finally felt that this was the right time. I brought my towel and extra clothes and sat anxiously through the entire service, nervous that I would be speaking in front of a large number of people. I hate public speaking. I was to be dunked in frigid cold water after a soft-spoken highschool boy, with just the two of us planning to be baptized that morning. As I was called and came from behind the stage curtain, I was nervous, yet truly excited. I stepped into the freezing water and spoke about how I had come to be there that day. Almost in tears, I fell back into the water and came up feeling refreshed and alive. It’s hard to put my feelings into words and all that really comes to mind is “amazing.”
As I wrapped my towel around myself and headed backstage, I heard our Pastor encouraging anyone else who felt moved to be baptized to come forward. Another woman, wearing a dress, suddenly appeared and said she wanted to be baptized. While she was being baptized, Curt suddenly came through the door. “Oh, he came to congratulate me,” was my initial thought. So self-centered, how typical of me. 🙂 It took me a second to realize that he, too, wanted to be baptized. As he shared with everyone, he had been baptized as a baby and obviously didn’t remember it. Nor did it have the significance as it would today. Without a towel or extra clothes, Curt waded into the icy cold pool dressed in his pressed aloha shirt and khaki pants and was reborn as well. Tears streamed from my eyes.
After he came backstage we hugged and spent a quiet moment realizing how much closer we had become to each other and to God. That experience was one I will never forget and will treasure always. I know that I have so much more to grow and, as is human nature, will falter in life many times. No, I will never be perfect. But, what comforts me is knowing that God will always be there regardless of what happens in my life. I came to God wanting more meaning in life than just what is offered here on Earth. I love my family, my friends and all that I have been blessed with, but I know that this is all temporary and could disappear at anytime. And what would I be left with then? We should all yearn to add meaning to our short lives through something that withstands time and is truly everlasting.