The Bliss of Grace
We had been waiting for a time when it was safe to have this baptism. Now not only was he a bit older than his parents had planned for him to be on his baptism day, but a baby sister arrived in the meantime as well. As I stood with the parents and godparents at the baptismal font holding these two precious little ones, I had flashes of others who had stood there before. Parents and godparents lovingly holding little ones in the arms of those earnestly hoping they too could live out these vows and earnestly hoping this would not be the moment in which a meltdown would ensue due to hunger, lack of sleep, or the strange feeling of having too many eyes on them.
On this day, like so many, he seemed uncomfortable being held upright in his big boy, celebratory attire. He seemed disinterested in the explanation of meaning and memory making, of which he will later come to know. He seemed distracted by the sensory overload of sights, sounds, and smells of the chancel space which far too many people other than those with robes and stoles feel at home. He seemed disconnected by play and prose unfolding in front of him, of promissory call and response. He seemed detached from all of it until he saw the water.
I had asked the parents if he could help pour the water into the font. This visible act is not about adding a dramatic flair. It is about making the invisible visible. Water being the ordinary element that becomes the vehicle for the extraordinary. The sacramental water of baptism is an outward sign of God’s grace.
There is an intrinsic invitational element of water. It has the power to nourish, refresh, restore, renew, and revitalize us. To fully embrace it takes a bit of letting go. I saw all of this in the little one about to be baptized as he set his eyes on the water. The pitcher which held the water was of no interest to him.
He was mesmerized by the water. It was not enough to behold it. He needed to cup it in his hands to bring it closer to himself. He needed to feel it and experience it for himself. Nothing else would hold his attention. His eyes widened and his face shined. The water became his focus and delight. His joy and curiosity were palpable.
I am not sure what others saw. As I know there might have been some who were uncomfortable with the playfulness of the holy water. Yet, what I saw, and what I believe God saw, was what God longs for us to act as God’s children. The pure bliss of experiencing the fulness and abundance of grace.
While this little one will not remember the specifics of his baptism day, I hope he will recall the bliss of being in the presence of the Holy One. I hope he will experience the rush of grace when he needs it the most. I hope he will remember the feeling of being held by those who love him the most. I hope he will never lose his wonder and playfulness of the Divine.
This is my hope, not only for him, but for us as well.