Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The Water Stop
It has indeed been a long time since the Water Stop. I was not quite ten years of age when I was baptized in the Hebardville Methodist Church on the northern edge of Waycross, Georgia. The pastor who would later become my step-father was the one who put the water on my head and said the baptismal words. I have some recollections of that Sunday. I can place myself at a particular place at the altar rail in that small sanctuary. What I do not have is a recollection of some Damascus Road experience with Jesus. All I can honestly confess is an awareness that I needed to respond to God in some way and baptism was for me at that particular moment the right thing to do.
When I was not quite ten, I did not have much of a grasp of baptismal theology. Yet, even without the understanding, it was for me the nailing down of an important marker in my spiritual life. In one sense it marked the beginning of my journey with God and in another sense it spoke of my need as a child to acknowledge my own consciousness of God and my need to be related to Him. Looking back it probably did not exactly fit the mold of a believer's baptism. It would be some years later when I was finishing up high school that I would come to a moment which was for me the beginning of an adult understanding of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.
Since those childhood days, I have learned something about the theology of baptism. Seminary and years of going to the Water Stop with others has certainly shaped what I have come to understand and believe about baptism. Still, no amount of training or experience has diminished the sense of being in the presence of divine mystery each time I go to this place of grace. Whenever the baptismal waters are stirred, it seems that someone leaves marked for life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. The water may dry and become unseen by others, but somehow it must surely remain as a visible marking always seen by God.