Today I took part in the service at my Church, I was asked to help promote the up and coming Baptism Sunday with the story of my Baptism back in July, with only a few minutes to speak, I gave a short version of the amazing events that took place that day, but here’s the full story.
Saturday 7th July 2012
Where do I start with this one, well I’ve posted about my karate before, I’ve had success, back in 2010 I was my association’s National Men’s Kata Champion, in 2011 I was runner up, both these previous two years, I had rode my luck, I survived on pain killers and freeze spray as my body was barely able to cope on it’s own, I had drunk at least four cans of cider the night before, I couldn’t remember a Nationals where I was completely sober the night before, so this year both sober and with a new outlook on life through God, how could I fail.
I had spent the last two and half months losing weight, so I was fitter and lighter, I wasn’t struggling with aches and pains, I didn’t need the pain killers this year, I prayed for strength to achieve my dream of winning, I was ready, I was up for it, it was my time.
Well, no it wasn’t, for the first time in over twelve years I lost in the first round, it just wasn’t there, yes I had got fit, yes I had lost weight, yes I was pain free, but to be honest I hadn’t put in the practice, I wasn’t there to win a Wii fit competition, this was karate, this was kata, it needs practice, no matter how good you are.
When I lost the split decision, there was a massive disappointment, I walked back off the mat truly down, I shook my opponent’s hand, then it hit me, I looked up and thought, “Ok, I’m with you God, I’m not there yet, I’ve still got work to do, it’s not my time, it’s not part of your plan, I am with you, I will trust you to show me when the time is right”.
People around me couldn’t believe I had lost, but my response was “it is what it is!” In other words, that’s how it’s supposed to be, who am I change that. The disappointment was short lived, I was given a bit of a jolt, but there was a lesson to be learnt and I was learning it.
It’s was late when I got home, but I followed my routine, wash, pray and write up my journal. I wrote two phrases in my journal that night, the first being “It is what it is” and the second being:
“I am a work in progress, but I have to work in order to progress”.
I love that second phrase, it sums up everything, we are all a work in progress, none of us are the finished article, but in order to achieve that potential we have to work to improve, to progress, we should not just expect everything to just happen because we want it to, we have to work for it in order to appreciate it.
Sunday 8th July 2012
A good night’s sleep followed, I was at peace, content that even though I hadn’t achieved my dream, I had learnt a big life lesson. I woke the next morning, started as a means to go on, straight on the Wii Fit, a couple of hours of exercise and then a nice hot bath.
Then the first of the odd things that were to happen on this day, as I got ready for Church, I looked out of the window to check the weather, well it was overcast, it looked like it could rain, I had just my jeans and a t-shirt on, so I checked the weather on my phone, overcast and a chance of rain, so do I take a coat?
As I walked through the kitchen towards the back door an odd thought came into my head, “I not taking a coat, I don’t mind if I get wet today!” Ok, so no coat, it wasn’t that cold, but a bit of an odd thought, but that’s it no coat, let’s go then.
I walked to Church in my usual, slightly odd looking power walk, well okay freaky looking, walked into Church, hugged a few people on the way, hang on a second, did I just say hugged a few people, yes, yes I did, but that’s not usually me, I surprise those I hug, just as much as it surprises me, this day is getting stranger, but it’s about to get even weirder.
I take my seat, at the back left corner as usual, if you walk into our Church, you will find me quite easily. Today wasn’t a normal service, it was Baptism Sunday, this had been announced some weeks earlier, I had thought about it, but as I had only been in Church three months and still felt like I had a lot to learn, feeling that I wasn’t ready yet for that step, I had decided to put it off until later in the year, when I had more time to prepare. The service starts with Worship as usual, three lively songs, then Gareth our Pastor takes the stage, he announces it’s Baptism Sunday, but then makes a statement he says he has never made before, at this point everything changes, the weird, just gets weirder!
Gareth challenges everyone, that in this Church today someone will make the decision to get Baptised today, an on the spot decision, it had never happened before, but Gareth had a belief that something amazing was going to happen today in the presence of God.
Now at that point everything changed, I froze, I literally froze, I couldn’t breathe, my lungs, my heart, my chest had just frozen, everything felt cold, the air was gone for that moment, then it went. I knew then that He was talking to me, not Gareth, he just mouthed the words, God was talking to me, he was calling me out, he was telling me it was my time to stand up and be counted. Gareth proceeded to say that they would find a change of clothes and a towel, he didn’t know where from, but they would provide somehow.
I stood frozen to the spot as Gareth left the stage, we sang one more song and then a break for a short time to meet and great friends, I stood there absolutely still, oblivious to anything going on around me, having a conversation with myself in my own head. “He’s talking to you, God is talking to you, what are you going to do about it?” “Are you doing this or what?” There was only one answer, “YES”. I looked around the hall, spotted Gareth and set off, ignoring every face I passed, I was on a mission, I interrupted Gareth, he turned and I just asked “Ok, where do I get a spare set of clothes?” He realised what I was saying and it was all agreed, too late to back out now, in for a penny in for a pound. I went back to take my seat, I had a grin bigger than a Cheshire Cat, I couldn’t believe what I had just done, I’m never that impulsive, I don’t work that way, but things were happening here that at the time I couldn’t understand, but I was going with it.
Part of the Baptism service is that, each of those who have made a decision to be Baptised, prepare a statement of how they came to God and tell their story on stage, so Gareth called out the three people who had made the decision some weeks earlier and were prepared, I don’t think I was supposed to go up there, I hadn’t prepared anything, I was still reeling from what had already happened, but again impulse took over, I stood up, marched to the stage, took Gareth completely by surprise and joined the other three, I was literally lifted from my seat to that stage, my normal self would never have done this, but today was quite obviously, no normal day.
Speaking on stage, in front of a couple of hundred people, is not easy, the three before me had written statements that they were reading, but they were struggling with nerves, they were quiet, losing their track, even unable to read their own writing, as each one got more nervous than the previous one, I stood waiting my turn. I am out of my bubble here, this is not me, I don’t act impulsively, I don’t push myself to the front in places I’m not comfortable, but it wasn’t like that today, I wanted that mic, I wanted to speak, not sure what, but I had something to say.
I took the mic, looked out to the crowd, not down, not avoiding the gaze of the crowd, I was looking them in the eye, I told them how my life had collapsed, I told them I had been an alcoholic for the past 3 years, I told them how I made the hardest phone call of my life back in March when everything had felt lost, how I had met Gareth and Alex, telling them just about everything.
I had prepared some words to send to Gareth in text when the moment was right, but the moment was now, these words just came out
“That night I took from them an hour and half of their lives, in return they gave me the keys to the rest of my life and the strength and courage to unlock the door and go through it, to a better life”.
I say these words with strength and passion, the response from the audience is fantastic. I proceed to tell them when I quit drinking and how things were getting so much better, then passed the mic back to Gareth, then it’s back to my seat and relief.
The response from everyone I meet as I go back to my seat is unbelievable, I don’t think at this point they know I wasn’t supposed to be there, they had no idea that I had answered the call.
The word is next and then the Baptism at the end of the service, we are called up, I remove my shoes, socks and the contents of my pockets, ready to enter the Baptism Pool, firstly the three who were supposed to be there, then me, then another man who had made the decision after I did.
It’s my turn, I climb the steps, then just jump in, no dignified climb down into the cold water, like everybody else, not for me I can’t wait, I just jump in and take Joss and Alex, who are carrying out the Baptisms today, totally by surprise, then I’m in position, I relax, then I’m under, it’s a total rush, a moment I can’t easily describe, if you’ve been there you will understand. I was soaked, I had no spare clothes, but who cares, it’s was alongside the birth of my two children, the most glorious day of my life.
The rest of the day was a bit of a blur, I know I just couldn’t stop laughing to myself, I was in amazement at the things I had done throughout the day, things I would not normally do. I had made my mind up, I wasn’t ready, but that didn’t matter, it wasn’t a case of I didn’t think I was ready because the Lord did!
I think I was called because of the faith I had shown the previous day, that was my test, that was a test of faith, I had hopes and dreams, I had failed, but my response was, I trust you, I will follow your plan.
You gotta believe
Don’t fear, don’t break it
You gotta be free (Ah, Ah)
I hope your blinded eyes will see
(You Gotta Believe by The Rocket Summer)
I wasn’t to worry about getting wet that morning, he would provide, I would be getting the greatest soaking of my life, what was a little rain compared to that! He did provide, I had clothes brought to me, I don’t know where they came from, but they appeared.
That night when I wrote up my day, I wrote another phrase:
“With the correct faith, yesterday’s failures can become today’s victories”.
It had certainly been so in my case, I was called out, I was lifted from my seat at the back, lifted up all the way to stage, taken from my comfort zone to share my story, rewarded for my faith.
If you are considering being baptised or have made the decision you are not ready, I say this:
“Do not look into your own mind to ask yourself if you are ready, look in to your heart and ask the Lord if he thinks you are ready, you may get an answer you never expected”.