Wineskins Archive

December 7, 2013

Post-Mortem (June 2012)

Filed under: — @ 1:52 pm and

By Jennifer Gerhardt

My four-year-old loves baptisms. They mesmerize and terrify and enchant her. She stands on our pew on tiptoe, crawls into my lap and climbs my shoulder like it’s a ladder. She asks questions in anxious whispers. She holds her breath while the woman leans back into the water, sucks the air in quick and strong so she’s gasping. And then, when the woman, now new, rises from the water, my little, excited daughter squeals with joy, yelling, “She’s alive! She’s alive!” Jumping up and down, up and down, she beams.

London reacts this way to baptisms because London, in all her four-year-old wisdom, believes—truly believes—that a person who is baptized dies in the water. Specifically, she thinks they drown.

I don’t know where this idea of hers originated. Well, maybe I do. The first time she saw a baptism I said, “He’s doing what Jesus did. He’s dying to his old life and then he’ll rise to a new one.” Her daddy said, “He’s taking up his cross to follow Jesus.” She tilted her then three-year-old head, stared at the baptistery and asked, “So, do you really die?”

Paul writes, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Do you really die? Yes.

It’s the dying that makes the living a miracle, and to my daughter, that’s what baptisms are — God magic.

I look around sometimes at my friends and I sitting in padded pews watching a baptism, sitting while London claws her way to the highest ground for the best possible view. When that face breaks the plane of the water and the newly-alive takes a breath, my friends and I applaud like we might at the symphony, sophisticated approval, while London giggles and claps, stomping and chanting, “He’s alive!”

Watching her and watching us I wonder if we’ve lost sight of the miracle of resurrection.

London loves God—really, really loves Him. She told Him at three in a whisper, “I will never run away from you.” She’s as committed as a four-year-old can be. I’d worried (Is ‘worried’ the word?) that because she loved baptisms so much maybe she’d want to be baptized, and where I come from we don’t baptize-four year-olds. But London never brought up baptism and I wondered why so I asked. She looked at me with serious eyes and said, “Mom, I’m not ready to die yet.” And what I loved most about that sentence was the word “yet.”

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