I was standing out by the smoke cans at church today, doing what I do most Sundays -- looking for ladies who have indicated they would like to be baptized or renew their baptismal vows. Often, I come into contact with new girls from either of the rehab facilities our church is in ministry with, asking, "How can I do that??" I tell them that during spirituality classes on Mondays, they can talk it over with a member of our ministry team.
Today, the question from one of the ladies was a little different. "I want to renew my baptism, but shouldn't I wait until I feel better? Until I really think I'm ready to do what's right?"
Hmmmm ... good question. Instinctively (or maybe habitually is a better word), I was ready to say, "Yes, definitely, you should wait..." But then I paused just long enough to entertain a different thought.
"Let me ask you this," I said. "Do you think that what you just said might imply that you are the one bringing about transformation instead of God? It's really about what's going on in your heart; the way you desire to be, whether you're able to pull it off or not."
She smiled as we both seemed satisfied with this answer. I told her we could talk it over some more tomorrow.
Yes, God's doing the work, not us. We just step forward and agree to cooperate.
Interestingly enough, that conversation played itself out in another way after the service. I was talking to Shanelle, who had just had her daughter baptized. She was telling me about the "things" going on at the other rehab facility. (I had asked her point-blank about what I perceived as a real funk around that place.) She spent the next few minutes telling me about being disciplined for reading the Bible with other clients, among other things, "because she was pulling them out of their recovery" (don't ask ME what that's supposed to mean). I confess I was flabbergasted.
I questioned her more on this, realizing that sometimes the ladies don't give me an entirely accurate picture of what is going on. At the end of our conversation, I felt discouraged. Yet I said to her, "Well you and I can agree that things are going to be different ..."
I know that God is on first. I know he is the one doing all the real work. I'm just a vessel; just someone stepping forward and trying to cooperate with what he is bringing about. I want to make a phone call on Monday and take someone to task. But something tells me this would be a really bad idea. The response from the staff there lately has not been positive.
I'll just keep showing up and doing what I do. I'll tell myself that Shanelle and I agree about what the ultimate results are going to be.
The rest, I 'll leave to God.