This week I celebrate ten years as a baptized member of the Adventist church. I do mean celebrate, I don’t just mean mark, commemorate, acknowledge. I take joy in the fact that I joined this church ten years ago. I have never been more sure of anything else in my life. It’s true: I was only sure about marriage and motherhood on the other side of it. When I walked down the aisle in the other direction with my new man; when I held that baby in my arms–that’s when I knew. This is where I am supposed to be. But when it was time to stand up and do the hard work that being a church member (not just a visitor) requires, I was certain. I was walking in confidence and walking in the steadfast Spirit toward this step.
I made the decision to start the process toward baptism when I was 23 years-old. I didn’t really have a steady job, I wasn’t engaged, I didn’t have any family in the church. I had a promise from a friend that this would be a better life for me: a closer, more sober walk. It’s what I needed and I’m so glad I made the decision to get baptized.
This is not to say that it was an easy decision or that the last ten years have been a cakewalk. I have encountered some of the best people in this church: humble givers, servant leaders, courageous thinkers, brave workers. I have also encountered some of the worst of people in the church: conniving, proud, slanderous, gossiping, unfaithful people–and all of those people live in me. I am all of those people. I have been baptized to live an abundant life in Christ and yet I am not always quick to abandon the ugly and selfish that abounds in my own heart.
I now work for the church. I send my children to church schools. My husband counsels people through the church. Sometimes we feel like we live on a compound but I would not change a single detail because we are assured that this is where we are meant to be for such a time as this.
Will we be here in another 10 years? I can’t be sure. I do have some hopes for the next 10 years that are pinned to my heart like a kite–ready to catch air but not quite ready to fly alone.
For now, here is a wish list for my church (which includes me).
1. That we would spend more time relishing Scripture than we spend debating our interpretations of it.
2. That we would no longer limit our perception of hospitality as simply “being greeted.” Was the church clean? Was there toilet paper in the bathroom? Were the pews comfortable? Was a good word offered? All those can be marks of hospitality.
3. That we would raise our children to be Christ’s hands and feet.
4. That we would realize that desegregating our church starts with us and that dismantling segregation starts with relationships.
5. That we would not quote Ellen G. White using esoteric abbreviations that no one else understands.
6. That we would realize that all those self-righteous bumper stickers about the sabbath aren’t converting anyone; they just make us look like self-righteous bumper sticker evangelists.
7. That we would be on the front lines of radical service everywhere.
8. That we would not align ourselves with conservative, liberal terms but with Christ Crucified.
9. That we would compensate people fairly, particularly women in ministry.
10. That we would continue to call the sabbath a delight. A delight.