Thoughts on Baptism
by Hannah Hanzel
At around six years old, I stood on the banks of the Aegean Sea. I could smell and taste the sea as it permeated the air with its salty moisture. My wavy hair kinked up, and my twig-like legs became slightly sticky, both side effects from the humidity in the air. I watched my big sister step foot into the sea and wade out to the waist deep sandbar. She was taken into my dad’s arms and gently, ceremoniously dunked beneath the water. I watched curiously as everyone on the banks clapped and praised God during this strange spectacle.
The second time I can remember witnessing baptism, I was in a missionary house in Central Asia. The scenario was similar with the rich joy and smiling faces. Gratitude filled the space, much like the humidity in the previous scenario, affecting everything it touched. Local, new believers were baptized in the house’s small bath tub as families and friends crammed in the bathroom and spilled down the hall. Those two accounts are my earliest memories of baptism.
This week, nearly 16 years ago, I was stepping foot into a baptistery myself in McAlester, Oklahoma. It wasn’t as exotic or thrilling as the other two scenarios. There weren’t crashing waves in the distance, or tight, intimate quarters. Honestly, I don’t even remember much about that day. I’d like to remember how it felt as the water got deeper and deeper with each step. I wish I could recall my dad holding my hand as he guided me to the center of that narrow, cement baptistery. I can almost force myself to hear the chuckles as the elevated baptistery splashed out its contents onto the blue-haired ladies of the choir some 20 feet below.
I wish I could remember those details. Nonetheless, what I do remember is still valuable. I remember the waters stirred like my young, nervous heart. I remember the lukewarm laps of the baptistery, and how it reflected anything but the condition of my soul. Every inch of me was burning with joy and excitement in my newfound hope and purpose. Not even a dunk beneath water could douse that Spirit inside.
The desire for baptism is a natural response to the repentant heart. The practice was attractive to me before I knew the Lord, but it is more than attractive now as a believer. It means something.
It means that I’m letting everyone know to Whom I belong (1 Peter 2:9-10). It means I’m inviting all other believers to share their burdens with me (Galatians 6:2). It means I’m setting out on a mission for the mountains on which Christ’s name has not yet been proclaimed (Isaiah 52:7). It means I’m asking my church to keep me accountable (James 5:16), to teach me (Colossians 1:28), and to pray for me (Colossians 1:9-12). It means I’m letting my church leaders know that I am committing to submit to them (Hebrews 13:7), and that I need their loving counsel (Proverbs 11:14). It means I’m making a promise to die to self and to live for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:15), for that is true gain (Philippians 1:21).
These things began a work in me the moment I accepted Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. But through baptism, I proclaimed them to the world. Have you gone through the unmagical, lukewarm water of the baptistery to proclaim the intimate, life-changing power of Christ? If not, feel free to reach out to the church with your questions or convictions on the matter. If so, recall that day and rejoice that the Lord counted you as righteous to carry His cross through the baptistery and into the world.