Baptisms always make me weepy. For that matter, so does reciting the Nicene Creed, and whispering the confession of my faith, and kneeling at the communion rail. My inability to let things go, keeps the nearness of my sin always at the ready. I am quick to recall my own depravity. I’ve seen the depths of it, and after that awakening, I have never been able to un-see myself, in my truest form, though I am fully aware of God’s mercy that covers me. The creeds, public confession, baptisms–these all remind me of my own constant need for salvation, and this, recalling of my brokenness, in light of redemption make makes me weep. It’s grace that springs the tears loose.
It’s the covering of Christ that bows my head. Because this wasn’t always my story, because there was most definitely a B.C. period of life for me, the gift of redemption is not one I hold with careless hands. And so, these things–redemption, mercy, and grace, are the crack in my armor, the place where the light leaks out, in my own continual saline washing.
A couple of weeks ago, I observed, and corporately participated in, the baptism of an infant in our church. But this baby. Though his mother cradled him tenderly, it was as if he knew she had ulterior motives in mind. We all looked on as his little bare head bobbed angrily against her shoulder, intentionally, and unintentionally, as he was so small, and lacked the neck muscles to directly control his own objecting efforts. All the while his mother cupped him tenderly, while his little storm raged on. The hand off to our pastor only elevated his pitch, as all 12 pounds of him squirmed and twisted in horror at the thing that was being done to him. He squalled and wailed right through his washing, as we all looked on in wonder and amusement.
He wasn’t having any of it, not on his own terms anyway, and in this moment, I felt a kinship with this little boy at the font. I too, received my baptism with struggle.
When He wants to give us that Holy Spirit whom He has promised, He brings us first to the end of self, to the conviction that though we have been striving to obey the law, we have failed. ~Andrew Murray
I think for many of us, this is what our own coming to Christ looks like. Though we may be aware of our need, we don’t always come willing. Sometimes, when we’ve not yet realized our need, the Holy Spirit ushers us forward for our own good, but still somewhat against our will, because our bent is not naturally inclined towards the Holy.
We need the washing, though we may resist it. We need the words of repentance and grace spoken over us, though we may recoil out of pride, and fear.
Our souls require what sometimes stings the most. Deliver us from evil, we pray and in so doing, ask that God would deliver us from ourselves.
Humble yourselves in His sight, and knowledge that you have grieved the Holy Spirit by your self-will, self-confidence and self-effort. ~Andrew Murray
During a baptism, our congregation joins with the family of the baptized to both confess our faith but also in commitment to helping the child grow in faith. As a body, we recognize the call of Christ to help one another in their own journey towards holiness. We are the cloud of witnesses here on earth, tasked with holding each other’s hand and holding each other accountable. Not in judgment, but in genuine friendship and with a true conviction that our journey in Christ is not entirely our own.
We are members of a bigger body. When one member struggles with redemption, we are all called to assist. We don’t cut off the leg that has been wounded, or the arm that hangs slack in it’s weakness, we turn to it, and we say, “how can I help you?” And in doing so we are Christ to that member.
B.C., I spent the majority of my life exercising my own self-will, self-confidence and self-effort. Self. Self. Self. I insisted on doing life in my own strength, and for my own glory. My prayers may as well have ended with the words, my will be done, because at the heart of it, that’s what I thought I wanted. But like this little baby, God ushered me to the font against my own desires, while I gnashed and wailed and pushed back against what was best for me. I was afraid. I didn’t yet understand how it is only when one is hidden in Christ, that one is most truly alive. I didn’t trust resurrection.
How can it be? How can life come from death?
Years later, I still recall the hour of my death with a sharp vividness. I still smell the dust of the carpet where I buried my face in my first true repentance. I remember the bitterness that filled my mouth as I fumed against grace. And I remember the unexpected sweetness of it too, the tenderness with which my Father carried me to Himself, cradling me firmly with His love, even as I begged Him to make it easier than it was.
I still don’t understand resurrection, but I know it is true. I live, and so it is as real to me as the air that I breathe, but cannot hold in my hands. I have no proof but my own story.
I don’t know where you are on your journey. Maybe you’re that baby, hollering for escape, unaware that what God has for you to receive, is more precious than the perceived sanctuary of your self-built life. Maybe you are in the body, unsure of how to help a fellow member whose been washed but still sputtering in the wake of redemption. Maybe you’re the one choking on your own baptism, drowning in trying to reconcile your old ways to your new life in Jesus.
Wherever you are, wherever God is for you, I know that there is room at the font for you to be. There is space for your struggle, for your joy, and sorrow and wrestling.
All these searchings and hungering and longings in your heart, I tell you they are drawings of the divine magnet, Christ Jesus…He desires to help you to get a hold of Him entirely. ~Andrew Murray
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