I DID IT!
Yesterday was my first time being baptized as a fully functioning human being (baby one was cool, but this was the real deal!)
I’ve been thinking about this moment for years. Every time baptisms were announced in the past I got a panicked feeling, I wanted to do it but was so nervous thinking about it I ended up avoiding it at all costs.
A year and a half ago when I met Lillian Lightbourn at a photoshoot she somehow casually mentioned she had been baptized in the ocean. At this point I had been looking for a church in NYC for two years and found nothing. I had walked out of so many services at this point I was ready to give up my search. Sometimes going to a church you don’t feel comfortable in can actually feel like negative church and you leave feeling worse and emptier than when you walked in. I’d even tried going to a church 2 hours away that was entirely in Spanish because I could feel God’s presence there and had hoped God would just give me the gift of Spanish so I could understand all the magic happening around me. (It didn’t work) So when I heard Lillian say she had been baptized in the ocean my heart skipped a beat and I screamed “Where do you go to church!?!?!” I would go to any church cool enough to baptize people in the ocean.
She told me she went to The Rock Church in Manhattan and explained that there were Rock Churches all of the world. She said that the church was based in the arts and was really diverse-all things I like to hear. That following Sunday was a particularly lonely Valentines Day and I walked to Times Square nervous about my last hope at finding a church. I didn’t think NYC could ever feel like a home if I didn’t have a church to call my family. I walked in and sat in the back. One of the girls invited me to sit closer to the front so I did. I was a bit early and I didn’t want to talk to anyone so I wrote in my journal a letter to Jesus. The theater we were in was completely decorated in pink streamers and hearts and everyone was wearing the most incredible outfits full of Valentines day colors. I looked around and saw the widest variety of people I’d ever seen in a church. A man with a 15″ mohawk had tattoos on his face and was carrying a baby, people of every spectrum on the color/economic/gay wheels. Every kind of person was there and I felt silly for wondering what I should wear because I knew I could’ve come in anything from my pajamas to an Oscars dress and been invited in with open arms.
When people gave me hugs (I’m not a hugger) they felt authentic and not like I was being used for someone to gain brownie points with Jesus. When the service started everyone stood up and started singing and dancing. They sang everything from “L-O-V-E” by Frank Sinatra to Beyonce’s “Love on Top.” I looked around and couldn’t believe the love and energy that filled the room. I didn’t dance. I didn’t sing. I didn’t even smile, I actually crossed my arms and scowled at everyone. I had walked in to this building bitter and broken and could feel those layers slowly melting away. I just stood there with tears streaming down my cheeks. For the first time in my life, I knew I was home. I knew everything was going to be okay and I knew I’d found a family that would never leave me.
After the songs finished I sat down and two identical twins came on the stage. They had hair that reminded me of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and matching suits that looked like the winning pieces of Project Runway. Their sermon felt more like a comedy show meets motivational speaking than any other sermon I’d heard. It felt like there was room for God in the service, something I hadn’t found in any of the other churches I visited in the city. Sometimes when services are so planned out and I’m being handed a piece of paper that has word for word everything that’s going to be said in the service I wonder if Jesus has any room to speak what he wants through the pastors. For the first time I felt peace. I felt hope. I felt excitement. And while I left still feeling broken, I knew that I was on a path to being put back together.
Now, a year and a half later, I finally feel like all (or most) of the pieces are back where they belong. It took me weeks before I smiled in church, months before I even thought about dancing, and over a year before I decided to join my cell group. This Sunday I took the plunge (even though it wasn’t in the ocean) and next Sunday is my first day I’ll officially be a part of the Rock Church choir! I’ve gotten to use the gifts God’s given me in the church with photography and seen my life be completely transformed. The morning of my baptism I watched this service recorded at the Queens church and it answered so many questions about being baptized I didn’t even know I had!
Today I feel new, my hair looks more golden and my mind feels fresh.
So this one goes out to my best friend, my business partner, my soulmate, my biggest fan, the shoulder I cry on, and the funniest person I know-the Big J upstairs. I am forever yours.