My mother told me that I would scream as a baby when she bathed me. (I have long been over the screaming part. But, I think God has quite a sense of humor to call me to an island on the world's largest tropical lake. However, I almost always have calm and peace as I travel on the waters.)
As a girl, whenever we would visit a friend's pool or the public one, my favorite spot was sitting on the side, dangling my feet in the water. That was where I felt safe.
My mother enrolled my sister and I in swimming lessons in hopes of helping me overcome my fear. Leah loved the water and was like a fish as she swam about. I endured and managed to pass the basic levels. But, without consistent practice and exposure, I reverted back to my old ways, retaining limited courage. Unfortunately, now I don't recall any swimming strokes.
And, for most of my Christian walk, I have approached my relationship with God in a similar way. Sitting on the side, and only committing myself so much, unwilling to plunge in to fully give and to fully receive from God.
Several weeks ago, I joined the rest of the SHIM staff in traveling to eastern Uganda for a staff development retreat. The focus was on our individual callings and how God has "shaped" us. We explored our Spiritual gifts, Heartbeat/passion, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences. At the end of the week, we were to identify the common themes in these and see what ministries for which God had shaped us.
This was exciting for me as I traced God's fingerprints throughout my life in the lessons and experiences He has led me through, to see how He had planted and watered the seeds of future ministry. My heart was filled with joy as what I had suspected to be my "passions" were confirmed - working with youth, teaching, communication, and support ministry.
But, even as all of these things came to light, there was a vital piece missing. At the beginning of the week, Andrew Smith had given an introduction to personal callings, sharing from Romans 12:1-8. Verse 1 especially stood out to me as Andy shared that we will not discover our personal callings unless we have offered our bodies to God as living sacrifices. I appreciated what one SHIM family member shared, we offer our bodies and God does the sacrificing.
This brought to light a decision God had been prompting me to make for some time - full surrender, "taking the plunge."
By the time Thursday afternoon came around, I was aching to get alone with God. I found just the right tree with a bench beneath it, looking out on awesome Ugandan scenery. And, I poured out my heart to God - offering Him my body, mind, desires, dreams, past, present and future. It was an incredibly joyful and freeing experience! Afterward I felt as if I was walking on air.
My "special" tree
Then, God asked me to take another step of faith and obedience - to be baptized again. I was baptized at age 11, but did it more out of compliance with my dad's request rather then very willingly. God had been asking me to do this for some time. And, now I wanted to make this public profession to cement my new committment.
Friday afternoon I was baptized by my long-time mentor, friend and "big sister," Karina (Thomas) Smith, and a very good Ugandan friend and brother, Robert Wafula. We did it in a pool beneath a waterfall, very near the "special" tree which I had sat under the day before. They had to dunk me twice, since I didn't get entirely wet the first time. : )
It was certainly a special and memorable week for me as I "took the plunge" into the pool of surrender, fully offering to God, and fully receiving His incredible grace, forgiveness, goodness, and mercy.
Since then I have also been freed to fully invest myself in what God has for me here in Uganda. My passion and vision have been renewed and broadened. And, I am excited to see how God will open and widen doors of ministry in the future.
May the praise and glory be to God!
And, the second time. I'm a double-dipper. :)