I saw my first baby baptism on Sunday. Having grown up in a church where baptism was always performed after a born-again experience, this was a rather interesting thing for me to witness. I’ve been baptized twice, once when I was quite young and then again in my late teens. I don’t think I fully understood the significance of either event and don’t feel that either has had any impact on my spiritual life.
Growing up, our baptisms took place in a pond or river and usually involved several people at once, since the ritual was a relatively rare occurrence. I remember one very cold day in winter when several converts were bravely lowered under the near freezing waters of the Mississippi as we all watched in awe from the bank, nestled under homemade quilts and blankets. My experiences were much different, occurring in warm waters on lazy summer afternoons while a chorus of human voices sang “Shall We Gather At The River.”
So, needless to say, the baptism on Sunday was a far cry from what I’d become accustomed to. The baby’s parents joined our church a few weeks ago and many of their family members came to witness the child’s christening. She squirmed and wiggled incessantly as her parents promised to raise the child in a godly home with love, patience and compassion and the church members vowed to support the child through thick and thin. Her hands and feet waved wildly, clutching her mother’s hair, kicking one of her booties off, dropping her pacifier. She seemed completely unaware of anything going on around her as the congregation giggled and our pastor dipped her hand in the water to perform the rite.
Then, something amazing happened. As Karen touched the infant’s forehead to make the sign of the cross and said, “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”, the baby became completely still. My father, who was visiting our church for the first time, looked at me with widened eyes and said, “Ain’t that something?” I was suddenly struck by the beauty of the event and must admit to feeling a little emotional as the baptism ended and the family took their seats.
I understand that the calming effect on the child could be explained away as the shock of the water or of unfamiliar touch, but I prefer to believe that it was the spirit of God touching the child through a ritual that goes back over 2000 years. On the flip side, it’s almost comical to consider that the few drops of water on her head may wind up being more spiritually significant in her life than both of the times that I was completely submerged. God works in mysterious ways, eh?