We gathered on the bank of the bay. I pull my shoes off and hold them, not wanting the leather Rainbow flip-flops to get wet. My husband doesn’t care. He walks right in. The water is cold and I try not to think about what’s happening between my toes. We walk further into the bay and the water is now up to my thighs. I cling even tighter to my cell phone.
I have no idea who any of these people are in the water with me.
I recognize the pastors of course. A few now recognize me as well. But those getting dunked, I’ve never seen before.
I want to create stories for them in my mind. Like how this couple nearly got divorced and going under water for them is a symbol of something so much deeper than joining a church.
Or how this man was a workaholic where nothing satisfied.
Or how this one never knew trust, or faith, or even love, and is now overwhelmed in it.
But doing that probably cheapens their real story.
They came by the dozens, nearly a hundred, and I hear that’s actually a small crowd for this event. Again, I wonder what the water is washing away...what’s getting left on the bottom when they rise back up.
I remember when I did it. I was 17. It was in a church, old school style, in one of those large clear bathtubs filled with warmed water that looks blue-green to the audience. I wore a white robe. (That part somehow seems creepy now.)
I always thought it marked a commitment for me...a point of no return. Looking at these stranger’s faces, now I feel something more.
It’s that chance to start over. It removes that strange belief in our culture that new is only for the young. It says there’s nothing set in stone that HE can’t hammer out.
It’s a weird practice when you think about it. When you’re outside, looking in, to think a dunking makes a difference. To think it’s about more than a public display of a private belief.
But it is beautiful. Not because they now think like me, believe like me, or even go to church like me. It’s because they feel free like me. They have a hope like me. They have a joy like me.
When someone else’s dark places get a little lighter, their wounds heal a little faster, and their weaknesses get a little stronger…
It’s worth getting thigh deep in cold, brackish water to catch a glimpse...to be a witness to the bizarre beauty of baptism.