More Than Getting Wet

29 01 2011

“Baptism” – what comes to mind? Water…robes…baptismal pool or font…sacrament?

According to the dictionary βαπτίζω (baptizô) means to immerse, dip, or plunge. And, for many, Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River comes to mind. But there is more to it than Jesus being immersed.

There is also more to the definition of baptism: any ceremony, trial, or experience by which one is initiated, purified, or given a name. So maybe baptism is involves much more than just getting wet.

Sometimes we are baptized by fire. We may not like it, but life experiences and life choices may rush us into the presence of change sooner than we would like; they escort us into places and situations we would rather not be…we are faced with a choice – plunge into the depths or flail around in a desperate attempt not to get wet. Being brought to the water’s edge always presents us with a choice.

Some baptisms may bring us to the edge of darkness – the blackhole of depression; the dark shadows of anxiety; the grip of addiction; the darkness of broken relationships, abandonment, and loneliness. We may feel there is no escape from the watery depths. The hope is, with baptism, there is a resurrection. Frederick Beuchner says, “Going under symbolizes the end of everything about your life that is less than human. Coming up again symbolizes the beginning in you of something strange and new and hopeful. You can breathe again.” (Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, pp5-6). Baptism is not complete until resurrection has taken place.

So maybe baptism invites us to find hope in the midst of depression; maybe baptism is about letting go and the beginning of trusting Jesus when he says, “Do not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself.” Maybe baptism is opening ourselves to grace and acknowledging that we cannot get better…we cannot be whole by ourselves. Maybe baptism is seeking forgiveness instead of revenge, community instead of bitterness, and transforming loneliness into intimacy with God. Maybe being baptized is sitting in the dark night within our souls but trusting that in the dark night, God is working on our behalf…working for good…saving and purifying us even when we are blind to God’s movements. Maybe baptism is stepping into the unknown…but stepping with confidence – believing God has walks with.

In baptism we are given a new name and we are born into a family of others who, too, have been through the waters. We are all in this together. The truth is that our baptism is a powerful and sacred enacting of a mysterious new birth that makes us family.

Baptism is not an ending but a beginning. Baptism can be a searching, a struggle, and finally, an act of faith, taken one step at a time…walking in the light we are given – until more light comes.

There is more to baptism than getting wet. There is death – death to our old self…death to old ways of living and being…death to what is dark in us. There is purification – from what is sick in us…from fear…from anxiety…from anger. There is also resurrection – resurrection to new life…to new hope…to a new name…to God’s Spirit descending like a dove…to God’s tender voice naming us as loved…no strings attached.

When we’ve been through the waters, we will never be the same.

(Have a listn to Kyle Matthews’ Been Through the Water at iTunes – – or visit Kyle’s site –




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