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“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story” Psalm 107:2 

Arrival. In my pride I walked into this new season of post-grad feeling some false sense of arrival. I have walked in faith and obedience to the Lord for the past four years. I landed a job where I can trace it to my first step of obedience the Lord called me to four years ago. I came into a new city, a new job, and a new community asking the Lord for humility and meekness. Asking the Lord for good questions to ask people, the strength to live presently, and to always have the desire to continue to learn and heed wisdom. But I felt a sense that I had ‘arrived’ or ‘mastered’ what it looked like to walk in obedience to the Lord. This kind of thinking only hindered me from growing in my walk with the Lord. We will never ‘arrive’ to some particular level of sanctification with the Lord which is honestly such a beautiful space to live in. As someone who really enjoys learning something new, I enjoy this about walking in step daily with Him. On the other hand, I am someone who puts a lot of pressure on themselves, so I can get into an unhealthy and unbiblical mindset of, “Okay let’s check this sin off the list and work on nixing the next one out of my life. & okay observing a sabbath? Got it. Walking in a humble & joyful dependence and obedience to God? I have tasted and seen it is good, so I don’t need to ‘work on that’ in this new season.”  

I arrived to Louisiana and something beautiful that Satan had turned into something to haunt me returned. Baptism and I have had a four year long journey. I was baptized when I was thirteen, fully knowing I was saved by the blood of Jesus and that I was publicly declaring this to my church congregation. But it wasn’t until I was nineteen and a freshman at Liberty University when Jesus became my Savior and the Lord of my life. I handed over control to Him. I handed over my own desires and plans. This life isn’t our own and Jesus’ ways are always higher. I learned it was obvious 1 John 5:3 was spot on: obedience isn’t burdensome. And it isn’t because my obedience ended in a positive outcome every time, but it is because God was with me the whole time and He is the promise we need. I learned where there is surrender there is the fullness of His promise of freedom and joy. 

The church I attended for four years in Virginia was very vocal about surrendering the fear of man when it came to baptism. I remember the first month being there and seeing people getting baptized & thinking to myself, “There is something different in my life about following Jesus. Maybe I should get rebaptized.” I thought about it more and concluded for myself that it wasn’t necessary. I knew what I was doing when I was thirteen; it was enough. And for four years I had the same conversation with myself which always ended in frustration. Baptism became wrapped up in shame, fear of man, and confusion.  

There were so many things that held me back from baptism. I kept ‘coming to a peace’ about not doing it when in reality, I was ashamed. I thought if I got up in front of my church after being some kind of “leader” and got baptized everyone would think I was fake and I had just accepted Jesus. Of course, this would not have been the case for them to think this. Another reason I experienced the four year wrestle was checking my motivation of getting in the water to get baptized. I didn’t want it to be out of fear. I was fearful of walking in disobedience, so if I were to get in there it would not be out of a joyful surrender but it would be, “OK let’s get this over with so that way God can use me.” But as the title of this blog spoils the story, I fully realized baptism isn’t about me. It’s not about justifying who I am to my community. It’s about publicly proclaiming the best news that has ever been told. It’s about Jesus & I had made it about me. 

During the four year wrestle I opened up fully to three different people, trusted people. All three pointed me to Him as I trusted they would and I kept ‘coming to a peace’ to not go through with it. But every time I thought I had put it to bed it would come back. Something beautiful the Lord intended for us, the enemy turned into a haunting of some sort. I know that sounds weird, but that’s how it felt. When it would return it would turn my cherished and protected time with Him in the mornings distant and bitter. It would make me sad, discouraged, and question over and over if I knew the Lord’s voice. One of the friends I turned to about all this said that I did know His voice. She said it was our inheritance that as a believer we get to hear His voice as we pray with authority given by Him. When you surrender and let go of the things in life you love more than Him or you think about more than Him [that’s an idol, friend] you are able to experience the fullness of the promise of Who God is. His abundance, His goodness, His faithfulness, His daily bread. Baptism had turned into an idol, and it wasn’t good. 

A couple weeks before I moved to LA I was on my way to style a friend of mine and her husband’s closets. The idea of baptism came back in a rush, and I became discouraged. The Holy Spirit prompted me to stop talking to my God about my problems and start talking to my enemy about my God. I prayed with authority that in Jesus’ name Satan no longer had a hold on something so beautiful and sacred. I immediately felt better, texted my community, & I knew if it came back, which I doubted it would, I knew what to do. I went to church the next morning and held it loosely before the Lord telling Him I would do it if He wanted me to, and I didn’t feel a prompting to get baptized. I moved to LA and the third day I’m there it hits me like a ton of bricks and now I’m angry. My whole life was new and different. The only thing that didn’t change was my God and now? My parents were gone, the people I had done life with were gone, I wasn’t fully seen or known by anyone in the state, and the baptism issue was back? It was tough because I knew if He asked me to do it I would be mad at myself for not obeying four years ago, so my people could be there for such a joyous occasion. But God covers all our bases y’all. I’ll get there. 

I called a friend I had kept the whole, detailed story from on purpose because I knew what her answer would be: get up and get baptized – shoutout to her! I told her the entire story and she met me with such clarity, edification, and truth all wrapped up in one reply: “I am not the voice of the Lord, but I know for a fact that the enemy would never ever prompt you to get baptized. Baptism is the obedient step and I think the Lord is calling you to it, and Anna Grace it is such a joyous thing. Getting in the pool to get baptized to fight for your intimacy with the Lord is not a shameful or sinful thing. That’s an incredible reason to get in that pool and declare before a brand-new set of believers in your life that this is where you stand and this is Who you are committed to. I wish I could be there. I wish your people could be there who have walked with you for the past four years in your obedience to the Lord.” I broke down weeping and replied, “This has been so hard. It didn’t need to be this hard. I need to stop looking back on the past four years and punching myself in the face for not being obedient. It’s keeping me from obedience. I need to do this ASAP & I don’t care what people think anymore.”  

I knelt before my Father the next morning and was filled with a feeling that when, not if, I went through with the baptism, would it nix the past four years that I knew I had walked with the Lord in. I knew I had devoted my life to Him. Would all of that go out the window? Literally a question that went through my head was, “Have I been living a lie because I haven’t been baptized since Jesus became the Lord of my life?” I heard Him so clearly say in my room, “This is you simply taking an obedient step with me today. This is you simply taking one step closer to your relationship with me today.” Why would I say no to that? I also know this was the Lord because for the past season He has taught me so much of what it looks like to daily trust in Him [Galatians 5:16]. He has taught me that He is a daily God, holding my hand as I walk step by step with His Word as a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. This sounded like my God.  

It was my first Monday on the job, my fourth day of my literal first full time job, and as we met for our weekly meeting I shared with my team for accountability and celebration purposes that I needed to get rebaptized. The joy that came over the team was unmatched. They asked if I wanted to wait to do it at the church or do it sooner, and I said I wanted to do it ASAP. So the plan was made that after work we would drive to a swimming pool and do it there. On a Monday. With a team of women I had met less than a week ago who were way more than willing to cheer me on. I called my parents and grandmother at lunch prefacing my story with, “I hope you meet this with grace.” I had let them into my story before I moved to LA, and I felt ashamed that I was finally going through with it without them there. They were thrilled and asked for a video. 

After work we gathered and a teammate brought me a change of clothes. They all asked me to share my testimony. It was the most messy, under prepared, unplanned “speech” I had ever given. I was a Communication major so this was tough to swallow, but it was another moment to exercise the muscle of selflessness. God is in every single detail haha! Baptism wasn’t about me. It was about my God. To share your entire story with a team of godly women you look up to but had just met was scary. But it wasn’t scary because the really big part of my story was that it wasn’t my story. It was His. Baptism is all about Him. And what He did for me. What did He do? He took on all my sin so I could live life in a broken world free and live eternally with Him in heaven. He also gave me the strength to kick Satan in the face. I was over the shame, I was over the fear of man, and I didn’t care what these women thought about my delayed obedience or about the legitimacy of my walk with my God because I knew that obedience isn’t burdensome. I knew that I was so over being bogged down by this one thing.  

One of the women there after I had shared my story told me that she knows a lot of people that think that if they are baptized then everything in the past that had to do with them and Jesus was for nothing, but she ensured me that this was me taking one step closer today with the Lord. I was floored as I shared with the group that’s exactly what God had told me that morning. It was such a full circle moment for me because that was one of the biggest things that scared me about going through with this. 

I genuinely thought that God had saturated my whole entire life – that he had every single key to my heart. But he didn’t. I held tightly onto the key for baptism’s door. And so with faith I handed him the key and I was baptized in front of my team. The men and women that had grown me up in my faith the past four years were not there. But I knew this was exactly what God wanted me to do.  

After I was baptized I went home and I made dinner. I texted my grandparents, my parents, and my girls the video and I went to bed. I do feel a peace today that that was the obedient step. I feel relieved actually. I write this without shaming myself: but if Jesus did this himself, “Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’” (New International Version, Matthew 3:15-17). So why did I delay?  

I wanted to give you a lot of this detail because the enemy is super personal. But Jesus holds the authority and Jesus holds the truth and Jesus holds the victory. I know in my spirit that somebody needed to hear my story because it is really specific, but I don’t think it’s rare. Like I mentioned before my church in Virginia talked nonstop about the fear of man as it pertains to baptism. But I still refused to let God into that. In that refusal I wrestled with confusion, shame, and fear of man. But I thought that it was OK. I write this today for the purposes of kicking Satan in the face, because he does not have a hold on my relationship with my God. He does not have a hold on my image. He does not have a hold on my reputation. This life is but a mist [James 4:14]. Who am I to think that I need to preserve some type of image to my community? The only true thing that I must preserve is the gospel of Jesus Christ because that is the sustenance. That is the good stuff. That is what is truly healing and truly meaningful.  

Remember when I mentioned God covered all my bases? I have shared my story with only a few people so far but every time I share it, the joy of the Lord is my strength. & my people are not disappointed in my delay, but they are thrilled with my day by day seeking His face. Also every time I write ‘came to a peace’ I write it in quotes because today I do not understand what that peace was. It was clear I was supposed to be baptized but it was a wrestle. I still am choosing to share that detail with y’all because I don’t believe we deserve privy to each and every detail in how God works. I may never know what the ‘peace’ was to not go through with baptism but the point is that I have chosen to not sit and dwell on it. To punch myself in the face for it. To be angry with God about it. I am not looking backward. To quote one of my favorite songs right now, “I’m not who I was. I’m who you’re making me” (Grace by Mosaic MSC). Every day I want Him to make me look more like Him. Who I was when I was fully surrendered to Jesus three months ago, three years ago, or three days ago is not who I am today. I am who He is making me to be daily. 

Arrival. It’s a myth; a tactic from the enemy to blindside you. Abiding. That’s the truth. That’s the good stuff.

AG is a member of Team LO and a recent grad of Liberty University. She is a massive Atlanta Braves fan [her hometown ayo!], never says no to an estate sale, & loves to style her friends outfits from their own closets. 

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Anna Grace Birley

Author Anna Grace Birley

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