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This morning I sat in a pew, on the edge of my seat – watching, listening, waiting.

And it happened.

The miracle happened over and over. People of all ages stepped into the water and looked out at us, some smiling, some clutching nervously at the edge. They wore t-shirts mostly, a pastor held their shoulders, reassuring and firm. People I know, people I’ve never met, children who are dear. They stood, and we heard their stories – clear, halting, full of emotion. Simple. True. A few sentences summing up the decision that will define them.

One of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies is the baptism scene in O Brother, Where Art Thou? Alison Krauss singing as I went down in the river to pray, studying about that good old way, and who shall wear the starry crown, good Lord, show me the way – her voice is mesmerizing, as hypnotizing as the white-gowned figures who walk, slowly, into the river.

Our scene is not quite so romantic – a funny half-transparent pool built high into the wall, so that everyone can see. One girl wears a swim cap. A young boy blows bubbles going under. Our pastors have on shorts with their buttoned down shirts. There is much to giggle at, much that is silly and strange.

And so it was when it happened for me. I was baptized first as a baby in my mother’s arms, but in college found myself leaning into the decision to make it my own, claim that part of my faith tangibly in my hand. And so I found myself standing in a similar pool – that stuck high into the wall kind – in an impossibly teal church in Waco, Texas. That place was strange in its own way, given to energetic singing and jumping and waving of hands, with a sign that said no dancing in the balcony and calls to come forward for prayer and healing. Not at all like the church I grew up in, small and quiet with the pews in neat rows, where we recited the liturgy week after week, rubbing it with our voices like fingers on the edge of a worn blanket.

As I stood on the steps, about to walk forward I thought – what will change? I didn’t even really know the man who baptized me, I found myself worrying more about which hand I was supposed to hold onto him with than about the words spoken over me – buried with Christ in baptism, raised with Christ to newness of life – hoping I wouldn’t come up spluttering, trying to wipe the water from my eyes with some small amount of grace. Before I knew it I was making my way drippily up the stairs, changing in a funny tiny room, coming with wet hair to sit with Bryan. And though I tried to make myself feel the fullness of what I had done that day – I know now, I knew this morning watching all those others – that the mystery of that day cannot be pinned down. The promises made, the revealing of a decision, the willingness to take on humility – those things deepen through the years and only later can I see all the ways it has worked itself into me.

This morning, we were family. Just as we were years ago in the brightly teal church, and just as we were growing up in the straight quiet pews. A family that I will always be a part of, who mostly get along and on our best days, shine ragged, breathless grace into each others lives. The middle aged white man sitting next to me cheered for the young black girl he’s never met, yelled amen about the recovered alcoholic who got baptized with his teenage daughter. I looked around the room at all those faces, expectant, covered with joy. I wanted to gather them all up in my arms, shout and sing and cry.

It was good. These things always are.


Written by Sarabeth :: the dramatic

November 25, 2007 at 10:50 pm

Posted in bryan, church, faith, life

2 Responses

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  1. soooooooo beautiful. and it was so precious. all those stories. the ones i know and don’t know.

    i love this post! the descriptions of all the different churches, the liturgy, the worship…makes me warm inside on this very COLD morning!

    alison chino

    November 26, 2007 at 10:19 am

  2. wasn’t it gorgeous? how blessed we are as the family of God! i wept and wept and wept some more, watching all those precious children and adults embark on a lifelong adventure with Him.


    November 27, 2007 at 1:14 pm

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