In which I am baptized, over and over, again

When I was two, I walked right off the edge of the dock into Last Mountain Lake in Saskatchewan, the ice was barely off the surface, my father snatched me out of the water, he was right there, but I was unafraid. I’ve never been afraid of water.

I was baptized on 28 May 1988. I was 10 years old.  I was in the musty old Zion Apostolic Church in Winnipeg. There was a baptismal at the front of the church, just behind the altar. I walked down the steps in my tapered jeans, and clasped the hands of the balding young pastor. He asked me a few questions, he put his hand steady behind my back, and then he lowered me into the cold water, I felt at home. I rose up, water streaming from my freckled face. I never wrestled with that moment and through all of my questions, all of my doubts, all of my failures, I have never doubted that moment, there was water, I felt it, I went in, and I came out.

On that exact same day, in north Omaha, 10-year-old Brian was sitting on his mother’s bedspread, praying the words she prompted, inviting Jesus into his heart. Somehow, we feel connected because we share that day, that day when he crossed the threshold of faith, and I plunged into the water, while he prayed far away, the trajectory of our lives beginning a cosmic arc towards each other when we were just kids.

I almost always run away to the water. I wonder if it’s because I grew up in the water, swimming with my eyes wide open in the depths, alongside the lean seal bodies of my cousins and my sister. I wonder if it’s because I water-skiied, I canoed, I launched myself shrieking with abandon off of mid-lake docks. Then I wonder if it’s because of the way my faith looks at water baptism. I wonder if it’s because I cry when someone is baptised, when I hear them affirm the desires of another soul, to be baptised in the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit.  I wonder if it’s because it’s the sight of someone submerging by choice, the burying of old things, the refreshing, the cleansing, the life from water. I like to swim in metaphors, sure, and I like the shock of cold water, it reminds my lungs to breathe, so I baptize over and over again, I’m coming up into something holy and gathered, something bigger than myself. I can watch the water of a plain and small lake, the way I can watch the bonfire move.

I sing old church songs when I’m at the water’s edge, but I’m silent, listening, when I’m submerged. And then I want to cry when my face breaks the surface.


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  • Candace barefootbuttercup

    Oh I loved reading this!!! I get the same way about baptism.  I love every second of it!  My husband was baptised just recently, last moment, literally a half hour before church by our pastor in our little bathtub.  It was the most raw and exciting baptism I have ever witnessed and I think everyone was emotional.  Nothing like trying to shove a pregnant wife, two kids, friends (one had to stand on the toilet to film!LOL) and our pastor in our tiny bathroom to baptise my six foot two husband in our tiny tub. It was beautiful! 

  • pastordt

    Ah…so lovely. I was baptized as an infant. As a Covenant pastor, I have baptized infants by sprinkling (though I usually use very large handfuls!), young adults by sprinkling or immersion, adults most often by immersion. It is the tangibility of our sacramental life that nourishes and challenges me, over and over again. These simple things that we touch with our fingers, chew with our teeth, swallow with our throats, digest with all that hidden apparatus that keeps us alive and well. And this simple thing you speak of here, the thing that bathes us, refreshes us, comprises a huge percentage of our bodily selves, and offers us life in every sense of that word. Some of the most profound moments of my ministry life happened when gazing into the eyes of a tiny baby and having them lock on as I said the words, committing them to God – enacting with my own body the offering of the gift of grace  to someone who was completely dependent on me to receive it. That’s how we all are, you know: completely dependent. Even stiff-necked, bossy me. Yeah, even you.

  • Leanne Penny

    I cry at baptisms too, each and every time.  I can feel the old life melt away as the water covers over so much pain.  I was baptized into the reformed church as an infant but I felt a deep need to make that cleansing moment my own. So, in my early twenties I released so much of what locked me up inside and stepped into the warm waters of my own volition and the Spirit was ever so present. 

    I didn’t invite many of my Reformed family for fear that they would be offended by my choice, I was afraid they would view it as a rejection of my infant sacrament.  They were hurt when they found out, but not because of my choice, but because I didn’t give them enough credit.  They were thrilled at my choice to draw close, to be free, to leave mess behind and they could care less about religious tradition.  And then I was doubly blessed.  

  • Amanda @wandering

    I think this is one of the best things I’ve read by you. Baptisms always make me cry. Currently I am questioning when to “allow” our kids to get baptised (when the day comes when the want to). My faith was my own, and I did so at 16, and I hear so many stories now of kids who regret getting baptised at a younger age to please their parents. Yet this reminds me that God is bigger than that when and how of our baptisms – our daily dying to self is what is most important.

    • Steve Martin

      Now that I have been taught what God does in Baptism, I am glad that I was Baptized before I even had a clue as to what was going on.

      In our church we will baptize anyone at any age. But we really love to baptize infants. It puts God’s grace ahead of our faith. And then we teach that little one (through the years) the great thing that God did for them before they could even remember it. And we return to that Baptism, daily. A dying and a rising…over and over and over again. Repentance and forgiveness…a true picture of Baptism.

      God bless you and your family.

  • Linda Stoll

    yes … I am always drawn to the water … spiritually, emotionally, physically.

    … cleansing, refreshing, life-giving, refilling and refueling.

    He knew what He was doing when He called us to be baptized.  He knew what it would signify to those who love Him so.

    and yes, someday when I grow up, I want to live by the sea …

  • JennyE

    “the trajectory of our lives beginning a cosmic arc towards each other when we were just kids”- This line gave me the chills!  Beautiful.

      I was always a little afraid of water as a kid, awkward and nearsighted without my glasses, easily sunburnt in our white-hot Texas summers.  It wasn’t until our honeymoon to Brazil, on the winter-quiet coves of Buzios, that I really began to love the ocean.

  • Steve Martin

    I love this post. I love Baptism.

    Far too many Christians place it all upon themselves, and their ‘decision for Christ’.

    In Baptism, Christ makes the decision for you. It’s a concrete reenactment of the cross…in our lives…at a point in our personal history, where God acts for us. He drowns the Old Man/Woman (puts the old sinner to death), and then He raises the New Person, with Christ.

    The Lord commanded that we do it (Baptize)…so He is in it, for us. And there we can have real assurance, apart from anything that we do, say, feel, or think.


  • Kamille

    i cry too.  Ben was reading bible stories with the girls when Veronica had a pause & fear in her eyes about following Jesus through our baptism.  He inquired.  What do you know, she asked if her head had to go in all the way, but the fear was more from the thought of her not being able to follow Jesus & be with him if she didn’t get baptized, because she doesn’t want her face to be submerged.  Good thing Jesus is a gentle Shepherd.  

  • Emily Wierenga

    it’s been a long time since i’ve felt baptized. perhaps if i stand in the rain. it’s supposed to rain tomorrow. i’ll do that. love you girl. 

  • Handsfull

    Oh dear… 
    I love your post (as always!), and have no problem with baptism in general – I’ve been baptised twice myself!  But the church I attend had a baptism last Sunday, and it’s brought me close to leaving.  This church is an Anglican one where all the cliches are true.  If 30 people are at a service it’s considered a crowd, most of the parishoners are over 60, and hardly anything is sung that was written after 1900.  It is as dead as dead could be. 
    I have never before seen the family of the child that was baptised, two of the three godparents weren’t there… and as I listened to the words that were said about welcoming this child into the body of Christ and promising to help the parents bringing the child up in the faith I was gritting my teeth to keep the words I was thinking from coming out. 
    What was the point of this?  It really was just a farce.  The family doesn’t attend this church.  I don’t even know if they’re Christians.  If they attend another church, why didn’t they get their baby baptised there?  How can we help them bring their child up (in a faith we don’t even know that they have) if we will probably never see them again?
    Thinking about all of this again is making my stomach churn :(
    If this wasn’t the only church in town, I SOOOOO wouldn’t be there!
    My thoughts are in a tangled mess about what to do, and how to know what God wants us to do… and none of this really has anything to do with your post!
    Sorry… but thanks for letting me vent :) and if you happened to have any thoughts on the subject, I’d love to hear them!