Baptism: Stone Crossings

The sky is a series of threads woven through the clouds tonight, the sun dips low and her rays crisscross in daedal strands. We drive into this gauzy gossamer and the road beneath is chatoyant silk. I am lost in folds and seams and undulating panels.
In my perfect world I would study heavenly heights all day. I would memorize the intricate colors of sunrise and sunset, get lost in pilgrim clouds, call each star by name, and laugh with gentle moon-friend. I would sleep underneath her charcoal blanket without a shiver. The sky—my wind-caress, my deep breath, my free-fall lover. Who could tire of the ever-changing canvas of her ways?
Tonight I want to dip my hand in and gather bits of her—bundle sky-pieces up in my arms. She seems so rich with substance, as if my hands can hold her. As if they would not emerge baptized in only tiny beads of moisture and air. If I try to embrace the atmosphere, my arms are left achingly…empty.
Earlier, as my boys made music–tucked into those tiny studio rooms with teachers–I read. I curled up under streetlight in the front seat of my van and imagined my head sinking under water…my long hair floating out to the sides, breath stilled for a moment, limbs buoyant and light…until I emerge—burst through the surface a new person.
St. Augustine said a sacrament was “a visible sign of an invisible reality”. In class last weekend, the professor taught me a new word: apocalyptic epistemology. This is a way of thinking, she said, that there is a heavenly realm that affects earthly happenings; there is a spiritual dimension to all things that happen here. “Apo” means “away”. “Calypto” to “take away”. And “episteme” means “knowledge”. There are things hidden that must be uncovered. They cannot be seen until God reveals them.
I think of my baptism and wonder–this washing in water here on earth—what is its mirror in the heavenlies? When Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again, was there an angelic delivery team waiting in heaven? And after we are born again through water, what does the journey that ensues look like through divine eyes?
Some days I am a child learning to walk again.
I only wish I’d been awake to the deeper, richer sense of baptism’s symbols on the day I stepped into tepid water, closed my eyes to chlorine and a pastor. But as Lauren Winner notes, sometimes we, like the Israelites, have to use that little phrase out of Exodus 24, Na’aseh v’nishma: We will do and we will understand. Sometimes the doing brings the understanding. Sometimes, as in my case, there’s an embarrassing time gap between the act and the illumination. (L.L. Barkat, Stone Crossings).
Sometimes, when I think of the day that I stood in front of my brothers and sisters and had my head sprinkled with holy water…sometimes I am tempted to think that day is like trying to grab hold clouds in my arms. I am left wet, but holding nothing. I feel no divine difference in my nature. I still stumble, I still crave, I still make mistakes sometimes.
But tonight, when I look at the wisps of cloud capturing the edges of the sun this way…I see that there is much more than what can be touched and seen going on up there.
I have been reborn. And like any infant, I require certain things. There are the regular feedings, the nurturing, the systematic passing through developmental stages. I am being transformed. Open my eyes to the wonder of it all, sweet Jesus. I don’t want to miss this growing part.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (Psalm 19:1)
…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

Comments

  1. says

    Oh Laura….disclaimer first: my comment in no way is a judgement of your sprinkling method of baptism. That’s fine…but glory woman as I read your opening and was thinking about baptism from your title…..I went back in time to my college years and my immersion baptism. I started imagining how wondrously you would have described that sensation of breaking through the surface after being immersed. Oh how I would love to have heard that description….the way you use words….you put more depth to my own experiences. And that is such a gift when your words stir life in me even when our experiences are different….well done girl! Loved this post.

  2. says

    I came here for a refilling and you did not disappoint. I love your rich contemplation and deep exploration of an act, frankly I had never even contemplated since I, too, was an infant at baptism. Lovely.

    Also…I chuckled at your trampoline story. What a hoot! We have a trampoline and once in a while I’ll jump on it when the kids are in school. Sometimes at night I lay on it and look at the stars.

    Blessings to you,
    Kelli

  3. says

    Beautiful. So much here. I kept feeling it belonged on paper rather than a screen. I wanted to hold paper bound in a book between my fingers while reading such words. I’ll need to reread to take it in better. It took me to my own baptism as well as a black and white photo I have of my grandparents baptism in a river.

  4. says

    Heya, come on over to Washington state and we’ll re-dunk ya in the creek behind our church. I was baptized only 8 years ago in an indoor tank, but I think I would like the silty mud between my toes. I want to see how my sin turns from yuck to diamonds shimmering in His waters.

    Last summer my son was baptized in that creek by my husband… an earthly father immersing a son in the Heavenly Father’s love.

    Blessings.

  5. says

    So much here…so, so much!

    First, well, let me humbly say that you taught me some new words as you described the sky and you should have written the poetry to describe these pictures here:

    http://findtheflametofan.blogspot.com/2011/02/heavenly-hues.html

    don’t read, just look at the pictures; you couldn’t have described me more as you were describing yourself in the second paragraph:)

    and I thought of how C.S. Lewis ended ‘the Great Divorce’ when you defined apocalyptic epistemology…those theological words I know and there are those crazy moments of the sensing…amazing thoughts!

    p.s. I think through L.L.’s comment, you are going to Jubilee! So glad for you–trust it will be deeply encouraging…

  6. says

    Your writing is like a beautiful painting Laura – so lovely.
    I used to long for the Lord to do “something” – one miraculous touch that would make me new. The reality, this long, slow journey is sometimes rather painful.
    Let’s just keep encouraging each other along the way. I have a feeling He sees things about us we don’t dare to imagine. He is at work in us.

  7. says

    Laura, so beautifully written. It creats a new longing for my first love of the Lord…it seems it has ebbed through stoney ground and sharp thorns and yet I am so thankful for nerve endings that still respond to wonderful writing like this. I look up quite often too and get overwhelmed with what the heavens declare.

  8. says

    I love that you’re also a sky-watcher, one who notices clouds and birds and sunsets and all of that, as naturally as you breathe. Beautiful!

  9. says

    the Scriptures say that man looks at the outward appearance of man while our Lord sees the heart.

    if there is any time when man edges closest to seeing into the heart of another, with even a smidgen of accuracy, it is in witnessing baptism, i believe.

    when we are privileged enough to witness this uncovering of faith and soul unto new life in the waters of baptism, we are invited, again, to join ourselves to courage … to take courage in our own uncovering.

    lovely.

  10. says

    Ah my dear friend… your visit, your words… your heart …. ahhh, just like old times. It made me realize how much I miss seeing you around!

    Thank you for visiting me today. Thank you for encouraging my heart!

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