Monday, March 22, 2010
Lent, Day 29: you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked
I received my Christian baptism more than 25 years ago but alas I do not remember the experience. I should point out that mine was a believer's baptism, not that of an infant, in case one might be tempted to say "duh" to this lament. I only remember afterward, being brought to my house by my friend Jack on his motorcycle. I remember this because I recall what it felt like to take the helmet off my head of wet hair.
I wonder if I would have remembered my baptism more if the water had not been warmed. On a less significant day from around the same time of my youth, I recall stepping into the icy cold water of the Kern River; it took my breath away and indeed that may have been the first time I had ever been in cold river water. (I grew up near the southern California beach and the summer waters at the coast there are not all that cold.) Perhaps all my forbears who were baptized in a similar fashion were use to "cold" water and so found the physical experience simply normal.
Maybe especially so the water of the baptistery should not have been warmed. Maybe in a way, such luxury suggests that I am better than or more deserving of comfort than my forebears. At the least it points to the different world and the different standards to which I am accustomed.
Perhaps this is also why, when the Baptist says "I baptize with water but one is coming after me who will baptize you with the Spirit and with fire," I am at something of a loss to appreciate the difference. A product of my culture, I am neither accustomed to judgment (fire) or to ecstasy (in its truest sense, i.e., Spirit).
Come to think of it, if the water had been too warm, I would have remembered that too.