“The bath of baptism gathers up the tension between sacredness and vulnerability, for baptism is not a pleasant soak in a tub but an immersion in death. As anyone who has ever felt the pull of an ocean undertow knows, water not only has the power to support and comfort us, it has the power to destroy us as well. Waters that close over our head might never open again. Naked and unguarded, we are vulnerable when we bathe.” – Stephanie Paulsell
A friend once told me that when he baptizes someone, he makes a point of emphasizing the power of death in the cleansing water. After taking a new believer’s vows, he does something ever-so-slightly unique to what many of us are used to seeing, something that some may not notice, but others still may even find uncomfortable, something so simple, but so symbolic… He lets the believer lie in the grave for a moment.
More than just a splash in a tub, he allows a sinner to attend the funeral of their own earthly nature. In that brief moment, which must feel longer than it actually is, a new creation has the opportunity to look Death in the eye, and tell it that it no longer reigns.
It’s such a simple and beautiful description of Lent.
In this season, we’ve had the chance to lie in the grave and face the chains of Death, flesh, self-centeredness, and earthly desire…
In fasting, we have tested their hold.
In prayer, we have questioned their authority.
In acts of redemption, we have proven them powerless.
In turning to Christ, we have overcome.
For more than just a moment, we have immersed ourselves in reflection upon our humanity.
For nearly forty days, we have sacrificed our vices, our time, and our selfishness to turn towards God and await the moment when he will lift us from the water towards completion.
Lent pulls on us like an ocean, asking for more, overcoming us with mystery and power. Somewhere, God controls the tides, and He invites us to risk the waves. He wants to take us out to sea, because He knows, when we finally submit to the rhythms of the ocean, we will truly be free.
In this Holy Week, my prayer is that we would allow ourselves to be swept out to sea. The shore is comforting and familiar, but we’ll never find Life on the shore. God is calling us to something deeper, something far more mysterious, something that is vast, beyond our imaginations. God is calling us deeper… and, as we go deeper, we turn our eyes to Jesus, and wait for what mystery the end of the week may hold.
Father, in the waiting, and in the suffering…we cling to you.
Teach us to die to ourselves and submit to the rhythms of your ocean. Let us drift further and further into you. May we cast off our old selves over and over again, every day, so that each day we can be covered by your mercies as if for the first time, each morning.
We love you Father, and we patiently await your return.