Friday, 26 October 2012
I've read a lot recently about baptism being symbolic, and how it's not necessary for the modern Christian. Anyone at any time can give themselves to Jesus, and be taken in by His grace. But that was too hard to believe. I made jokes about bursting into flames or being struck by lightening during my baptism, but the truth was - I didn't honestly expect to be accepted. I pictured a private moment, where I would face myself just as I am, exposed, vulnerable, emotional, and afraid. I thought that I would come, begging for forgiveness and love, and leave not truly knowing if I was received.
But instead, a small church full of wonderful people met me by the river. I wrote a testimony, and honestly exposed the things that I hide, the things I'm ashamed of, and the things I'm afraid of, the things I wanted to lay at the feet of Jesus, and be saved from, and someone read it while my friend and pastor held me and I cried. They sang a hymn called "Just As I Am" as I walked toward the water.
It was a cold day, and late in the afternoon. The sun was still high, but sinking to the west so the the river sparkled with it's yellow reflection, and the trees that lined it on both sides picked up the sunlight from below and looked brillant-bright green with deep shadows. A tiny levy stretched across the river making the water ripple and carving out a spot waste deep where it poured over it's shallow wall. A rustic mill sat quietly on the right, frozen in time, and a large rock outcrop jutted out to the left where the church gathered to watch.
Suzee, my friend and pastor, took my hand and with my boyfriend Mike, lead me out 1000 cubits (give or take) where the water was to my ankles, and I stopped because it was so cold that it hurt. A kind of freezing burn that drowned out all my other sense, and the sounds of trees and water and onlookers melted away into the background and anchored me in the reality of what was happening. We waded out to where the water was waste deep and our toes hurt from the cold and with the sun at my back and shining on her face, she asked me "Do you believe your sins are forgiven?" They laid me backwards and the water came up to pull me under like a thousand icy fingers, in an instant painful and terrifying, and then the sun spilled across my closed eyes and I was calm. Coming back out of the water the icy fingers released their grip one by one, the sun was instantly warm on my face, and they held me while I wept.
On the shore the hands and feet of Christ waited with blankets and prayers, and warm fire, and warm food, and they sang Amazing Grace, and anointed me with oil, and told me I didn't have to be afraid, and I knew that I was received. The air smelled like campfire, and bubbled with laughter, and children ran through the field catching frogs and footballs, and I was warm and loved and it was amazing.
Maybe not everyone needs baptism, but I did. Because Jesus met me there to tell me I am received.
I don't have pictures to look back on and remember, but I make pictures with words.
Have you been baptized? If not, what holds you back? If you have, what was your experience like? Do you think everyone should be baptized? Why or why not?