Ashley Vinson was baptized last month at Hoboken Grace, and in celebration, we wanted to highlight her story. I recently had the chance to ask Ashley a few questions about her baptism and was inspired to share our conversation.
How did you hear about Hoboken Grace, and what made you decide to join?
I found Hoboken Grace on Yelp, I’m almost embarrassed to say. A year ago, on New Year’s Eve, I was having a really rough time. I felt incredibly alone, dealing with the end of a relationship, in a job that was taking everything out of me, and in a new city. To be completely honest, I was lying in my bed sobbing…and I just had this feeling that I needed to find a church. It was almost like God nudging me, saying, “Okay, Ashley…it’s time.” I went online and found the videos of previous services, and I fell asleep watching and listening to the message. That following Sunday, I went in person to one of the Hoboken locations and then joined a dinner group almost immediately.
Were you nervous to go to church by yourself for the first time?
I just tried to throw myself into it. I remember the first service was such a healing experience. I’m pretty sure I cried, but then again, I cry a lot. But I remember Pastor Chris specifically talking about how it doesn’t make sense to pray for patience, and love, and strength, and all of those other good things that would make life wonderful. Instead, we should be praying and working to get closer to God, learning more about Jesus and his love, because in doing so those things will come. I had been praying for patience, and love, and strength. There’s no coincidence in timing, in my opinion.
How has this advice impacted you?
Since then, life has been life. The advice didn’t include some magical, immediate change with perfect happiness. It’s really been up and down. I’ve struggled…and still struggle…a lot. But I will say that my family has noticed a change. There’s more underlying peace in my life, I would say. I attended the services for a while, very consistently. But then I started traveling a lot and watching Livestream. I went on a bit of a hiatus with in-person services and dinner group, but I honestly had to come back to it all. It’s really easy for me to run away. I think it’s very easy for me to treat God like a medicine and take him when I need him, when I’m sick. But then I stop until the next time I’m sick. That’s so wrong…I won’t deny that God has been quite the medicine for me, but he’s not a one-time pill. He’s more of a daily multi-vitamin. But to be serious, I’m working really hard to seek God in such a way that he becomes an inextricable part of my everything.
Tell me about your decision to get baptized!
I decided to get baptized on October 23rd, at Amplify. I had been thinking about it a lot but hadn’t felt yet like it was the “right now.” I wanted to be sure. I guess what happened at Amplify is (1) God said I had to…so that’s basically the end of that story. Truly, that day I know I was being told that this was the next step and this was the time to make it. But (2), I realized that baptism is not a declaration of perfection of completion at all. If that were the case, I would never have done it.
What did it symbolize for you?
For me, baptism is an act of intentionality. I wanted to commit to God. I wanted to acknowledge my belief and my faith. Honestly, I’m not the most disciplined person in the world, so it has been easy for me to have ebbs and flows in my relationship with God. But baptism for me was the decision to commit to getting to know God more and to strive to make my life a better reflection of His love.
How challenging has that been?
The way I look at it, a relationship with God isn’t that different from a marriage or other relationship. It takes time and effort and commitment. You don’t always love the other person the right way, and you don’t always do right by them. We make mistakes, and we pull away at times. But the commitment declares where my heart is. It’s with God. And quite frankly, I want to lock myself into that decision and hold myself to the work it takes to make this relationship work. There was a series where Pastor Chris talked about how our intimacy should match and not go beyond our commitment. Now that message spoke to me on all sorts of levels, but that’s a story for another time. Specifically here, I wanted to be closer to God. And I know that God is fully open to having a relationship with all of us and that he has already made that commitment to us through His sacrifice of His Son. Jesus carries all the burden. But what kind of relationship is that? I wanted to commit, too.
Do you feel different after taking the step of baptism?
Well, I see baptism as a recognition of promise and renewal. I will say that doesn’t mean I walk around feeling cleansed all day every day. What it does mean is that when I am getting stuck in the past, or in some sort of personal rut, I can remind myself of who I’ve been made to be. I really do believe in the good in people, and I guess thinking about it now, it’s kind of like God says, “Look, I see the good in you. I see all that you can be.” And baptism is the moment when you say, “You’re right. Thank you. I will be that person.” And God says, “You already are. Now stop pretending and get to being the you I made you to be.”
Baptism is also a massive “thank you.” And an “I love you.” And a “Welcome — come in.”
To learn more about taking the step of baptism, attend Hoboken Grace’s class What Is Baptism after each service this Sunday.