I baptized my older son on Sunday. His mom and I did, actually.
We belong to churches that baptize only those who confess belief. And in our branch of Christianity, administering sacraments is not limited to any special clergy class. Our interpretation of the Bible tells us that any believer can do such things as we are all part of the royal priesthood (see 1 Peter 2:9).
I’ve seen dozens of baptisms in my time as a Christian, but always from the audience. I had never baptized anyone. But at my son’s request, there his mother and I stood, in the water. My son leaned back, his back supported by our hands. And then, for a second, he was fully submerged. His eyes were closed, his face was still. His hair flowed freely.
He looked dead.
I was struck. This is what baptism is, a kind of death. We choose to leave behind a life guided entirely by what we want and what we think is right, choosing instead to turn toward God from now on, to look for him every day as a small boy looks for his father. We are imperfect; even following God, we will sometimes make harmful choices. But as we keep following God, keep seeking him out, over time we get better and better at loving as he loves.
You’ll hear Christians in my faith tradition say of this things like “put the old body to death,” or “dead to sin, alive to Christ,” or “be born again,” to describe what happens in baptism. I chafe at those secret Christian code phrases; I prefer plain language. But these sayings do directly address the death-and-life nature of baptism.
It lasted just a second. Quickly he was up, eyes open, dripping, and we all cried. Tears of joy and, at least for me, of relief. My son is now also my brother, a fellow follower of God.
I wish everybody could see what I saw.
Now I belong to Jesus,
Jesus belongs to me,
Not for the years of time alone,
But for eternity.