We all start from somewhere, for good or ill. There is a place where the beginnings begin, a place where the story first unfolds like the soft petals of a rose; my beginning is by the sea.
Warm white sand melting away under your feet with each step, me in my yellow polka dot bikini and matching sun bonnet holding hands with baby sister who is dressed just like me, carrying pails and fluffy, soft terry cloth towels and nose coat to find the perfect place on the shore under the watchful eyes of the Son. Sea shells and digging for crabs and sand castles washed away by the afternoon tide. A place of laughter and pure joy where each hour passes into the next filled with more warm, sunshine goodness.
It is cotton candy and carnival rides, it is lobster tails and drawn butter, it is daddy throwing you into the pool and mama covering your nose with white goo every time she can get her hands on you. By her own profession you are part fish, more suited for the water than life on land. Years later floaties are exchanged for hula skirts and tender skin kissed by the sun, it is hot tubs and star filled nights to hold a thousand dreams of what life will be.
It is before the beauty got banged up by the realities of this world. It was before I knew that marriages broke up, before he and she went their separate ways, it is before I ever knew the word cancer, before granny got sick and before anyone I loved left me for good, before I ever stood over the hole in the earth they call a grave. It was before I realized some endings were not happy, before I was aware that the hard, cold blows of this life could shatter paradise. It was before there was worry or fear, before anxiety attacks, before I wondered if God could really be good, it was before any brokenness entered the realm of my own little world.
Last night I gathered with loved ones to witness the baptism of a brother. As I listened to his words of life, words of redemption and grace, I thought about how I love these services of water and Spirit. I thought again about life, about the sometimes cruel circumstances and unforeseen disasters and then I thought about the power in that water, the water of God’s love. The mystical and eternal water that has the ability to wash all our sins away, to call that which was not as though it was, to raise what is dead to new life again.
I remembered that my brother and I walk this life in the lineage of a host of people more fit for the water than land. It was our people who once walked through the sea as the armies of Egypt, the bondage of their past pressed against them; our ancestors who placed rocks into the Jordan as they walked back into their promise after years lost in the wilderness of their own making. It was our fore parents plagued with sickness and disease, bent over from the bruises encountered in this world who prayed for healing beside the pool called Bethsaida and our sister who though wrapped in her own shame found the living water of Jesus beside the well. For all of us, born of water and Spirit there are untold numbers in our heritage who came to Jesus down by the riverside and who have over the ages been baptized in his name.
And so, as winter melts into spring, as death gives way to life, let the waters flow. Let the healing water of grace flood our souls, wash us clean and make us new as we float knowing, life is hard but God is near and there is power in this water.