The two men in their frog-like wet suits looked more like family than I remembered them appearing and I was only vaguely aware of the icy water around my waist. I turned around and saw the people I loved. I clasped my hands together and at my elbows I could feel a grip that would not let me go. I let myself fall into the arms holding me and as I was brought down into the water the burden of thoughts, worries and plans left me. I had no ideas, schemes or daydreams, only a strong sense that this was the right thing. Without a doubt, in this moment I was in the right place doing what I was created to do. I came out of the water, still dripping with the trust and love I had just been immersed in. But in the moments that this peace slowly drifted back to a dusty corner in my mind those thoughts, worries and plans flooded back in.
It has not been a clear path since my baptism. It has been a struggle and there have been times of sinfulness since that cold wade into Falcon Lake but I cannot deny the serious impact I have seen since this event. When the path does not seem clear or I feel lost often it helps to merely look back on this event as a guiding point in my life. That moment in the water where I was dipped backwards into a larger faith story is always a place to center myself, regain trust and begin prayer. In this way I feel that I am still being baptized, leaning back in trust, into the abundant spirit.
A baptism serves as a great symbol of faith. Not only does it help in guiding us towards God’s Love but it is proof of the life that is already being lived in faith. Before I was baptized I asked a lot of questions about this: What is baptism? Why be baptized? Why now? The biggest question of all in my mind was what it meant about my life after the baptism, and before for that matter.
The reason I wanted to be baptized to begin with was because I wanted to make a tangible commitment to the identity I had given myself over to: disciple of Christ and son of God. This I knew many months before my baptism but as the day drew closer I kept thinking about it. I continued to turn this notion over and over in my head and for every turn I felt a weight added. Did I know what this meant? What right had I to be considered one of God’s flock? What could I contribute? I had no doubt that God existed and the Spirit was calling me. I just wondered: did I have the strength to heed that call, and what did it mean if I did?
In fact, the more I thought about this in the days leading up to my baptism the worse my head space got! I became listless and apathetic, and these worries constantly nagged me. I couldn’t focus on anything, least of all finding deep and meaningful answers to these questions. One event in my life at that time became a symbol for this slothful depression: I had to get a mold of my face done for a role in a film.
Getting a face cast done was a very strange experience. A bald cap was pulled over my greased down hair before covering my entire face with a kind of plaster. Beneath this mask I could barely hear, I couldn’t see anything and if I moved my face at all it would ruin the plaster slowly setting there.
I am a fidgety person that has the tendency to be claustrophobic; in most circumstances this experience would have been atrocious, but that day I loved it. I felt at home in this alternate existence. The closest I’ve come to articulating my experience of this was describing it as being behind a door listening in on the universe. I loved just separating from all the hustle and the bustle, disconnecting myself from business and relationships and simply being in a peaceful lull.
Thinking on it now I see that that had become my state even without the mask on; so even as it was peeled from my visage, a plaster of another sort remained there. I went through the motions but not as myself. I did not know the character that was laughing with my friends or joking around with my family. I didn’t know this mask that spoke false words and smiled with empty happiness.
I would have thought that a baptism would be pointless and fake when it was that masked man being dipped into the water. In fact, a baptism was exactly what I needed. It was an experience of self-discovery or, perhaps better said, discovering something so much deeper and bigger than just my self for once. In fact as I was dunked beneath the river I knew I was being submerged into more than just still waters and into the refreshing, flowing spirit that washed away the stubborn plaster.
Finally I was pulled out and back into a world of anger and anxiety, dishonesty and depression, gluttony and greed. But I was pulled out, reminded of who I was: a disciple of Christ and a son of God. Behind me I could see that mask of spiritual plaster, that had kept me in the darkness for so long, being carried away by the flowing currents of God’s love. At last, I could see the light shining in again.