"I tell you the truth, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the spirit." John 3:5
I grew up in one of those small traditional churches that most people who have never stepped inside a church picture when thinking about what religion is. I was fortunate enough to develop a strong foundation in God's promises from a young age. As a result, I don't really remember a key point that I chose to follow God; it was just par for the course. I do remember, however, being ten years old and knowing what baptism meant. At the time I was eager to stand in front of the church and proudly proclaim my faith. So I did. I stood up in front of a congregation of people I had known my whole life and committed to follow God for the rest of my life. Although I wholeheartedly made that promise with the best intentions, it would be a long time before I truly grasped just what my choice would mean for the rest of my life.
Ten years later I faced what I interpreted at the time to be the complete breakdown of everything I had or dreamed of for my life. Suddenly I, the good kid who worked hard for good grades in advanced classes while maintaining an active sports life for years, found myself unable to finish a degree because of financial constraints. I moved back home and found a dead end job. I watched all my friends move forward with school. As they made new friends and learned all this fascinating stuff, I served pretzels and ice cream to rude costumers. I squandered the little money I did make on a variety of distractions that allowed me to ignore what was really going on underneath the surface. As time went on I spiraled more and more into depression. Instead of turning to God in my moment of need, I became angry with Him. In my warped mindset I saw Him as the big bad that took away my dreams after I had given so much. I distanced myself from church and decided that I'd deal with "the God thing" later. Distancing myself from God's community had repercussions I didn't anticipate. Without a foundation of other believers to lean on I found myself soaking up various ways of medicating the pain. Honestly, they worked... for a while. All earthly desires failed in the long run because it wasn't my flesh that was broken; it was my soul.
I found myself in New York after a particularly bad spell back home. After confiding my dissatisfaction with my life, relationships, and faith, my sister Amber immediately invited me to make the move to the city with her and her husband Peter. I accepted as a last ditch effort to things out. I packed up my life, loaded the van, and ventured East. I didn't know it at the time, but all those things I had seen as ways in which God took away from me were actually paving the way for this move. I self-proclaimed at the time that I was running away from my problems, but really I was running toward my destiny. I originally intended to avoid church altogether in New York, but on my first night there I was already at Dinner Party. I went to church that Sunday and never stopped.
Somewhere in those first couple months at C3 I found myself falling back in love with God. It was like I was reintroduced to the loving Father that sometimes makes the hard choices to secure a better future in the long run. As soon as I repented and turned back to God, He blessed me abundantly. I found the perfect job that opens doors for my future that I thought were closed forever. He's given me closer bonds with Amber and Peter, the most amazing nephew for cuddles, and an amazing group of friends that inspire me. Everything has been on a steady uphill climb since making the move. There was just one thing left for me to experience before I'd even consider getting baptized again -- I needed to speak in tongues.
When Pastor Josh called up anyone that has never spoken in a Heavenly language, I knew that was God using him to speak directly to me. God knew, without me ever saying it, that I needed to fully accept the Spirit into my life. I have full confidence that I was saved as a child; I asked God to "come into my heart and make me new" as a child many times. That much was there. It's different though when we tap into the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Last week I stood in front of my church family with my arms in the air begging God to give me the ability to connect further, to dig into Him deeper. Boy did He deliver. The language poured out from my lips with reckless abandon as my body quivered and shook, overcome by the power within me. I could feel God's presence from the top of my head to the tip of my toes as it flooded my veins, raced inside my bones, and brought my muscles to life. For the first time in my life I fully surrendered control, knowing full well that it meant I would never be the same again. When I relinquished that last little bit of control I had clamped tightly in my fist, God overwhelmed me with His presence. Baptism was the obvious conclusion after such a spiritual rebirth, so I took the plunge. As I got out of that pool I felt an all-consuming peace embrace me. It's been over a week and that feeling lingers still. I'm home. God loves me. I don't have to fear for the future because it's in significantly more capable hands now. It's time to live; God's given me the freedom to dream again.
// Bri Pearson