Cornerstone

“I closed the door to my room, sat down on my bed and asked God, ‘What more do I have to do in order to be baptized?’”

Every Lenten season when we’re called to meditate on who Jesus is and why we follow him, I think back to when I was a young believer and deciding for the first time whether I would follow Christ in baptism.

Though I was raised in a Christian home, it wasn’t until I was in college that I understood the Gospel for the first time. I had started going to this small church plant called Shoreline, and I learned about God in a way that was so unlike anything I’d ever heard before. I’d been taught that being a Christian was mostly about being good, and that “doing the right thing” was the main way to get God to be happy with you. But as I heard teaching directly from Scripture and learned what Jesus was really like, I realized that he wasn’t some cosmic moral policeman who was making sure I “did the right thing.” He was the undisputed God of the universe, and, for some reason, he loved me, truly and deeply. And I began to love him in return.

I then started to put together the fact that once you believe that Jesus is who he says he is, the obedient thing to do is to be baptized. The part of me that wanted to “do the right thing” wanted to therefore jump straight into baptism, yet somehow I didn’t think I was ready for that. I looked around at other Christians, and everything was so familiar to them. They already knew what the pastor was talking about when he said things like “justification” and “propitiation.” (Or at least, they seemed like they did.) They already knew the songs we were singing, and where to turn to in their Bibles to look up Scripture. They seemed deeply content in their faith, like they were connected with God in a way that I wasn’t. 

To be clear, those Christians weren’t being disingenuine or hypocritical in any way with their displays of faith. This is more a commentary on where I was at mentally than where they were at spiritually. It was from my own superficial observances that I thought, “There must be something I’m missing, and I can’t get baptized until I figure out what it is.”

I pondered and pondered as to what it might be. Was it a theological truth that I needed to grasp? Was it an epiphany from God that I had to receive? Was it some kind of mountaintop peace I needed to experience to know that I was “ready” to follow God?

Despite my best efforts I couldn’t come up with an answer. Looking for some resolution, I sought the advice of one of our young-buck pastors. I can still remember Brian’s furrowed brow of concentrated listening as I tried to explain to him that I felt like something was missing. “How do you know when you’re supposed to get baptized?” I asked him. Though I’m sure that he gave a thoughtful, honest response, I don’t remember a single thing that he said to me during that conversation (sorry Brian). It seemed that whatever the answer to my internal hesitancy was, God didn’t want me to hear it from anyone else but himself.

During that time in my life whenever I had a deeply troubling question about God, I would sit down with my Bible and pray and I would not leave until I had an answer. So it was with my question about baptism. I closed the door to my room, sat down on my bed and asked God, “What more do I have to do in order to be baptized?” 

I’m not sure how long I sat there, or what combination of Bible roulette mixed with divine providence led me there, but I eventually found myself in Ephesians reading this:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
- Ephesians 2:8-10

This was in essence everything that God was trying to teach me about himself during that time. It was never about “doing the right thing” or having the most comprehensive Bible knowledge. It wasn’t about looking or acting like other Christians I knew. It wasn’t even about having some mountaintop experience. All of us are saved by grace through faith - period. Baptism is a way to proclaim that you believe that Jesus is who he says he is, and that in faith you will live your life following him. That is what I believed, and that was what I was prepared to do. So when I asked God, “What more do I have to do in order to be baptized?”, God’s quiet, reassuring answer to my heart was, “Nothing.”

I felt like an enormous weight had been lifted off of my back. There was nothing standing in the way of me following Jesus proclaiming that through baptism or any other way he called me to. The elation I felt was unlike anything I had experienced before or since.

And so it was that eight years ago today, on April 5, 2009, I was baptized in the holy waters next to Bubba Gump Shrimp Company at Santa Monica beach. Some people from the church came out to witness it, as well as my beloved college roommates. After I gave a less than articulate but heartfelt testimony of faith, my other pastor, Scott, walked me out a little ways into the ocean, and did the official dunk. 

The older I get, the more I appreciate the second part of the verse God led me to - For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10). God has already prepared things for us that we have no idea about. For instance, when I sat down for coffee with Brian in 2009, neither he nor I had any idea that he would eventually be my husband’s Best Man at our wedding in 2016. When Scott baptized me eight years ago, neither he nor I had any idea that his family would adopt me as one of their own when I needed a place to live last year. And the people who came to my baptism had no idea just how critical their roles would be in my life through discipling, fellowship, and abiding friendship. Truly the Lord has prepared our way for us; we need only to walk toward him.

Ashley Ross

Ashley serves Cornerstone as a Media Administrator and member of the Women's Ministry Team.

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