Baptism

under water

 

“What we do in life echoes in eternity”

I couldn’t understand why I had to do it; I just knew I needed to.  But there was no way I was going to do what I needed to do before I knew WHY I needed to do it.

That sounds confusing.  Let’s back up.

When I was ten, I watched my babysitter get baptized, and something in me longed to do the same.  When I told Mom that I wanted to do that too, she said I should wait until I was older, when I knew what that action meant.   Years passed and while the desire would come back when I watched others get baptized, somehow it was never the “right” moment for me.

The summer I was twenty-six, I had been back from Bahrain for a full year, and I had just begun healing.  My church had a baptism, and as I watched some of my youth group kids get baptized, the old longing returned.  I knew next year, at next summer’s church picnic, I would get baptized.

I never doubted that this was going to happen, but I instantly wanted to know WHY I needed to be baptized.   After all, I had said the prayer seventeen years before.  If a simple prayer saves you (I’m not convinced of this, by the way) than I’d been saved for seventeen years.  Everyone who knew me knew I was a Christian.  If the point of baptism, as it appeared to be in the Bible, was simply declare my faith, why did I need to go through the actions?  It wasn’t necessary.  My salvation was not dependant on my baptism, so why?

No one could really answer my question other than, “Well, Jesus did it.  And we’re supposed to imitate Jesus.  So, you need to do it. It’s an obedience thing.”

But that didn’t really explain anything for me.  WHY?  WHY was this ceremony, were these specific actions, necessary?

So, since no one could explain it to me, I took my Bible and journal to a coffee shop, and had it out with God.  I told him I wanted to do this, but I also wanted to know what I was doing.  I wanted to understand the significance of these actions.

And I sat there in silence, staring off into space, waiting, listening, for a good chunk of time.

And gently, quietly, a picture of a wedding worked its way into my consciousness.  As I looked at the bride and groom in the picture, I realized they could have asked a similar question.  The wedding ceremony didn’t change how they felt about each other.  It didn’t change their commitment level to each other.  The wedding was simply a public declaration to the world of what was already in their hearts, and it was the bride and groom’s asking the congregation to be part of their story.  To celebrate with them in the joyous moments, to cry with them in the unbearable moments, and to help them push through in the moments when all they would want to do is run in the opposite direction.    And there was something about the ceremony that made the commitment more solid, harder to break.  Maybe it was the ceremony itself that changed the commitment into a covenant.

And the same was true of me getting baptized.  It was me declaring my love and obedience to my Lord and Savior.  It was me inviting others into my story, asking them to keep me accountable, to help me out, to rejoice with me.  It was an intentional public display of affection.

The quiet sploosh of me being dunked beneath the water, will forever be one of the most holy sounds I ever hear.   In that moment, my physical body echoed what my spirit had long ago done, and it was about time the two were unified and in agreement.

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