“A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench…  I have grasped you by the hand.”  - Is. 42:3,6

"…He was not baptized because he needed to be purified, but so that he might bring sanctity to the waters themselves." ---St. Gregory Nazianus

Last weekend we went on a short cruise for New Year’s Eve and our Anniversary. The ship had a little water park, which our two-year-old son Paul insisted on visiting despite the overcast weather. The first day, he splashed in the pool at the foot of the slide. He played with the other water features in the splash pad area and generally enjoyed the frigid water splashing on him.

“Do you want to go on the slide Paul?”

“No, I’m just playing.”

Then next day the pattern continued. Jason even went down the slide to show him it was okay.

“Do you want to go down the slide?”

“No, I’m just playing.”

All of a sudden at the end of the second day he just climbed the stairs on his own, sat down, and came flying down the slide with the biggest smile on his face.

“Wow, I’m going to do that again!”

Most images of Baptism are of gleeful parents looking down at their screaming baby as water cascades over their head. Or of a baby dozing in an heirloom Baptismal gown. Just check out the photos of Prince George’s Baptism for a whole lot of ribbons, bows, and hoopla around Baptism. Actually, the Sacrament of Baptism is a lot more like a toddler flying down a water slide than a royal Prince in a pretty dress.

Baptism is joyful, but it also involves risk.  Letting go of our attachments to our own way of doing things can be scary. It can feel safer to stay in shallow water with only a limited scope of the world.

In life and in death, Jesus went first to show us that greater life was possible and to encourage us to take the risk. Like coaxing a toddler to try something new, forcing and cajoling would not work. Jesus simply goes first, encourages us, and remains with us. Jesus did not need to be baptized for his own sake; he was baptized for our sake, to show us that new life was possible and to make holy the very stuff of our lives that can either draw us to Him or keep us away.

Can I imagine myself at the top of the water slide, and Jesus waiting in the waters below? Am I lingering at the top, or in the shallow waters? What might it feel like to dive in and take the risk to be with Him?

Jen Coito