The baptism was over. The newly baptized teenager in a wet, white robe was welcomed with whoops, clapping and a big towel. The pastor stepped out and left to dry off. The little children who had gathered around the baptismal pool got up to return to their parents.
The worship service continued. My eyes stopped running and slowed to a trickle, just enough to wet my cheeks instead of my neck. My shakiness eased. I blinked a lot, still woozy from so much crying. My eyes felt replaced by sandpaper globes. The tip of my nose gleamed red like Rudolph, tender from tissue wiping.
I’d started crying an hour earlier, even before the service started. When I was out in the narthex—full of anticipation about the moment to come—my friend Carla approached me. We faced each other and she took my hands.
“How did your son come to this decision?” she asked, her eyes tearing up. “I didn’t think he was headed in this direction.”
“This summer, he had a revelation. He stayed up all night and wrestled with God,” I said. I could feel the pressure building behind my nose, my own eyes starting to pool.
“Yes, exactly! Wrestling with God like Jacob. He went through all his feelings and thoughts. For hours—all through the night—he struggled. He found answers for all the reasons he didn’t believe. As morning came, it hit him. He realized he did believe in God and he was a Christian. He even changed his status on Facebook.”
“So then it was really official!” she said and we both laughed. “How amazing that God worked in his life this way!”
“So amazing! It made me feel like God is working in everyone’s lives even when we can’t see it. We just don’t know,” I said. “I could have never guessed this.”
Grace and faith
After the baptism, as the service continued, I sat in happiness, knowing the pews around us were filled with friends who loved my son and took delight in seeing him get baptized.
Love flooded the sanctuary.
What is more precious than a child?
What is better than a child who dies to his old life and gives his new one to the service of the Lord?
He is a new creation.
As I sat, my son rushed up the aisle to me. I seized my still-damp son tight and wept fresh tears. We held each other and both shook from crying as the congregation sang.
Our pastor, Tim, explained at the end of the service that grace is God’s love given to all. Faith is our response to it. With faith, we start our relationship with God.
Ordinary moments and God moments
Most of my time is spent in ordinary moments. I copy and paste for hours at work. I disinfect the sink. I heat up chicken strips. I ride in an old car on a long commute. I crochet stitch by stitch on an afghan that seems like it won’t ever get finished. I let out the dog—again—even though she just went out!
But a few of my moments are God moments, when the holy light of God shines warm and clear. I can see and feel God with a palpable sureness, like my bare arm feels sunlight on a cool day.
I want for nothing. I feel complete, content and timeless. All is perfect. All is well. The tent door between our world and heaven is slid open so a sliver of light comes through. I look out. I get a glimpse of glory.
This moment—this hug from my son newly born in the life of Christ—was a God moment.
The last time I cried so much was from sadness: years ago when my brother died of suicide, a culmination of loneliness, desperation, mental confusion and drug addiction.
It was his death that made me want to go public with my faith as a Christian. It was his death that drove me to seek a church. Resa, the friend who sat at my side during my first visit to church, was again at my side, holding my hand while my son was baptized.
This time I cried so much from joy.
We can’t know what will happen. My son will take his own way with unseen hills to climb and curves to follow. I can’t make it smooth. But now he’ll travel with faith as a source of strength in a community of Christians all working our way toward God.
Our lives will end. But the love of Christ goes on forever.
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water,
suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God
descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said,
“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:16-17 (NRSV)
4 thoughts on “Crying at the water’s edge”
Love this. So happy that I could watch it as well even across the miles. I loved how excited the children were. What a wonderful experience.
How wonderful you watched! Weren’t the little children so sweet? They add so much to our group. Thanks for your spirit of love.
I love that I was there to see this wonderful moment. But what I love more is that every moment going forward is richer for Derek and everyone he touches– and he touches so many with his joyous energy!
That’s a beautiful thing to say! Thank you, Tahna, for your friendship and big heart.