Keith Kannenberg column: Wonderfully beautiful
Every once in a while God brings into your life someone who can give you a different perspective.
Her name is Gabby. She just started showing up at church a few weeks ago. She sits with her grandmother on the second row. She’s short for her age, a little underdeveloped physically and emotionally. She’s loud. Very loud. But that’s OK because she’s beautiful . . . wonderfully beautiful.
She walks with a bit of a limp and smiles a lot. She’s amazed by the simplest of things, and you are never quite sure if she has fully grasped what you’re trying to say to her. If it’s on her mind, she’s going to say it. Her words are rarely seasoned with social graces. She will probably never make the cover of Vogue, but she is beautiful, wonderfully beautiful.
She sits and listens intently as I preach. I talk about dying to self and living for Christ. I speak about gaining life by giving life away; week after week she listens.
Recently her grandmother told me Gabby wanted to get baptized. I made an appointment to talk with her. I asked if she knew for sure she was going to heaven when she died. She said she did. Then I asked what she would say if she were to die today and God asked, “Why should I let you into heaven?” She told me she felt sure that God would let her into heaven because she was good and helped her grandmother.
That was my opportunity. I told her how we all sin and how sin keeps us from going to heaven. I told her how there was nothing we could do to earn heaven, that God was the only one good enough to deserve heaven. I told her how God loved her so much that he sent his son to die for her sins. I showed her in the Bible how she could trust in his death, burial and resurrection and call upon the Lord and ask him to save her.
“Now, Gabby,” I said, “If you were to die today and God were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’ what would you say?” With a sweet little sparkle in her eye, she said, “Because Jesus died for me and rose again!” I was elated.”Now we can do the baptism thing,” I said. “Since you have trusted Christ, it’s time for you to tell the whole world what Jesus did for you. Sunday morning you are going to come and stand in the baptismal waters. When you are lowered into the waters you will tell everyone there that Jesus died for you and how you want to be associated with his death. Then, as you are lifted up you will be telling everyone that Jesus rose from the grave and you want to be associated with his new life.” She looked a little concerned, but agreed. The next Sunday she was there with bells on, telling everyone how she was going to be baptized. I introduced her to Pastor Roger, who took her away to get prepared.
When I finished my sermon I told the congregation about a special girl that would be following the Lord in believer’s baptism. The screen was slowly raised and there stood Pastor Roger and that wonderfully beautiful little girl. She was frightened, chattering nervously. Roger tactfully quieted her and proceeded with the baptism.
As she came up out of the water, she looked up at Roger and asked, “Am I dead yet?” It took a few minutes for it to dawn on me. She believed that following Christ in believer’s baptism meant actually dying. When that wonderfully beautiful girl walked down into that baptismal pool she actually believed she was walking to her death. Following Christ to her meant giving her life away.
Am I dead yet? “No, honey. Jesus took care of that for you a long time ago. But now, my dear, you are truly alive!”
Oh that we all had faith like that! The faith of a wonderfully beautiful child.
Keith Kannenberg is senior pastor of Blackwelder Park Baptist Church.