The following is the first installment of the three-part Southside baptism series. Baptizing Elam Lantz this past Sunday was an absolute joy. Elam is one of my best friends in the whole world, and by the grace of God, I’ve been able to play a part in his amazing story. Enjoy his re-telling of it:
When I came to college I considered myself very wise and spiritual. I was a leader at my church back home and was an all around good person. People liked me and I got great grades. However, I was also extremely arrogant. I considered myself better than other people because of my natural intelligence and the family that I was born into.
Freshman year of college was a disaster. The world destroyed many of my illusions. I found myself continually struggling to prove my self-worth through my grades and my relationships with friends and family. When I felt like I failed at either I was devastated. Life was a roller coaster and I realized that something was terribly wrong.
I felt like a failure, but I also had a sense that this couldn’t possibly be the end of the story. There had to be something more out there. Something beautiful, and inspiring, and fully satisfying for my soul.
Throughout history, people smarter than I had found answers in the Bible, so I bought one and began reading. I raced through the Book of Genesis in one night and went to small group that week full of questions. My small group leader Mike, who is baptizing me today, was extremely faithful. He met with me for hours on end, and answered all of my theological questions. I remember specifically asking him my questions in a provocative way, hoping to bait him into saying something obviously untrue. True to God’s character, Mike was patient and was the first person to clearly explain The Gospel of grace to me.
What he was described to me was shocking. Mike, who seemed to be perfectly sane, actually believed the things in the church hymns that I had grown up singing. He believed that Jesus was God, and that he came to the Earth to teach us how to be in relationship with the Father. That Jesus died as a sin offering but rose from the grave. And because of Jesus’ death and resurrection I didn’t have to do anything but receive His sacrifice. Apparently, the Father needed no grade, or social status, or earthly power to love me. I could stop trying to be good, to prove myself, and simply rest in Him.
As I learned more, I realized that there were major incongruencies between the way that I was living my life and the lives of God’s followers in the Bible. I was one of those people with “haughty eyes” that God continually said He opposed. It was clear that I was not supposed to take God and add him as a varnish onto my life, to make Him what I needed Him to be to feel good. The God of the Bible was ferociously jealous for me. He wanted me to repent, to stop trying to do things for and by myself, to turn to Him and let Him lead my life.
I choose to surrender to Him at the beginning of last year. I remember praying in the shower and saying something like “God, I love your people, I love the way they live their lives, I love what you do in their lives, and I want that for me. I don’t know if I fully believe in you Jesus, Your story seems too incredible. But I have a mustard seed of faith, and I give it to you. I want You, please save me.”
Since the incredible release of that day, God has given me joy beyond imagination. Sometimes I’ll be walking in the Diag and I’ll want to throw up my hands and sing to Him. I have fallen deeply in love, and that love has transformed my heart. At times He has afforded me incredible peace; the kind of deep peace where I am 100% sure that I am where I am supposed to be and doing exactly what He intended for me. No earthly relationship or accomplishment can compare.
There have still been struggles. God is continually in the process of redeeming the broken parts of my heart, and every day He moves me a little closer to being the creation He intended. It can be very hard at times, and it often feels as if I am moving backwards. But my God has promised me freedom, and my faith is as strong as it has ever been. Jesus is alive, and He is my King and my God and my salvation. Today in baptism I re-dedicate my life to serving Him.