Picture this – an antsy little girl sitting in church trying to annoy her older brother without her parents noticing. When she isn’t successful, she scans the room to see if there are any other kids she knows. As her eyes linger too long on a somewhat familiar face, she makes unintentional eye contact, averting her gaze quickly. She resorts to fidgeting with the clothes that are too itchy and uncomfortable, thinking she’d much rather be in shorts and a t-shirt. She daydreams about what she’ll eat after church and even makes a game plan for how to convince her parents to stop at Einstein’s Bagels, though it is not exactly on the way home.
That girl was me. I grew up going to church with my family every Sunday, though it felt more like a chore than a spiritual experience. As I got older and sports became a competing priority, we didn’t always get to church each Sunday, but it was still expected that we would go when I didn’t have any games. I even went to a religious private school for both middle and high school, where we would typically have one mass each month. Building on the habits I had formed as a young girl, this time was usually spent sneaking some last minute studying in or just trying my hardest not to nod off for too long. By the time I got to college and had the freedom to choose how to spend my time, I was pretty excited to spend Sunday mornings racking up the sleep I had missed during the week prior.
Fast forward to the end of my junior year at the University of Maryland when I started to feel as if something was missing. I really hoped that there was more to life than just getting through all of the classes, homework, and extracurricular activities during the day to then wake up and do it all again. It was exhausting. And with graduation and the “real world” approaching quickly in just one short year, I was desperate to figure out what greater meaning and purpose I had in life.
Coincidentally, or so I thought, this was around the time that I started to become best friends with my now boyfriend, Andrew, and another great friend, Christy. Both of them, plus their wonderful group of friends, were very involved in Cru, which I was not too familiar with. From what I could tell, this group looked a lot like me in terms of morals and values, but they had a great faith and passion for Jesus that I had really never seen before. During our time hanging out together, Andrew and Christy would casually ask me what I believed about God, which I don’t think I had really ever thought about before. I am grateful to my parents for having raised me with a strong spiritual background because I was familiar with several of the Bible verses and stories they shared. However, while I knew a lot about Jesus, I didn’t really know him personally.
As senior year progressed, I continued to explore my faith and learn more about having a personal relationship with Jesus. I treasured the group of Cru friends of whom I could ask questions and simply bear witness to how they lived their lives differently than the world. Everything slowly began to click and over time, I started to realize that I am inherently a sinner desperately in need of a Savior.
I don’t necessarily have an “a-ha” moment when I surrendered my life to Christ, but shortly after graduation is when I could confidently acknowledge that no matter how hard I try, I will always resort to my sinful tendencies. Even worse, the penalty for sin is a life separated from God. But the good news that I’ve come to know is that Jesus paid that price and died on the cross so that I could have a right relationship with God. The beginning of Romans 6 explains how we are called to die to our sin, as Jesus died on the cross, then just as Jesus was raised from the dead, “we too might walk in newness of life.” I am definitely reveling in the joy of that new life! Since this heart transformation, I have experienced an unimaginable peace and contentment in my life that is only traceable to the Spirit within me. While I used to try to control everything – namely my performance and others’ perceptions of me – I’m now free to trust in God’s plan for me and know that the challenges and missteps along the way are intentional tests designed to refine my faith and character. I’ve found that I can love others more genuinely, too, knowing the perfect love that I myself receive from God.
I am choosing to be baptized as an outward sign of the inward change that has occurred. While I was christened as an infant, that was more of a commitment on my parents’ end to raise me in a house that believed in God. Today, I am choosing to be baptized as an adult to publicly proclaim for myself that Jesus is my Lord and Savior.
— Sydney Tommins, Baptized April 2019
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