The Magic of Baptism

Nerves taking hold!

By Emily Holladay

“Can I just put my toe in real quick?” the girls squeaked as we waited behind the baptistry for the service to begin. Nervous energy invaded the space between each of us and the girls wanted to do something… anything to feel prepared.

With a twinkle in my eye and a knowing smile on my face, I replied, “Yes, but just your toe and don’t let anyone see you.”

“Oh! Miss Emily – it’s so warm! It feels so good. Did you feel it? You have to come feel it!”

I didn’t feel it. As the girls ran in succession to get closer to the water, I backed further away. Because the closer I was to the water – the more I could feel the humidity rising through each strand of my hair – the more I could sense the magic and wonder of the cleansing waters calling out to me.

Today, I will stand in those waters as God’s chosen vessel, welcoming three young girls into the body of Christ. Today, I will lead in the ritual that all ministers love to do and none get to nearly enough. Today, I will be bonded to three beautiful, innocent, eager children forever.

But, as I look at the water, I am scared out of my mind. I was 7-years-old the last time I stood in front of a sanctuary full of people soaked in water. Twenty years have passed since that day and now I am on the other side.

When I was 7, my dad stood beside me, holding me up and guiding me into the waters. His arm kept me steady as I became submerged, kicking my feet up (even thought he told me not to).

Twenty years later, my dad is not here, and I am the one called to stand beside these jittery young ladies as their robes absorb the warm water and their eyes take in the number of faces staring back at them – many with tear stained eyes. I am the one who will rub their back as their little fingers shake and their stomachs turn to knots. And I will be the one to hold them steady as they lean back and take the plunge into the holy waters of baptism.

When they come back up, I will be the first face they see, smiling back at them, reminding them of God’s words just for them, “You Morgan. You Lily. You Carli – are my child whom I love. With you, I am well pleased.”

Some people will tell you that there’s no magic in the water – that we’re Baptist, so it’s just a symbol. But, today, as I creep toward the water, hesitant to stick my toe in and claim my role as God’s minister, I know those people are wrong.

Baptist or not, there is magic in those waters, and I know because I can see it in the eyes of three little girls who are as eager as they are nervous. I know because I sense it in the pride of the community gathered in the sanctuary, knowing that in this moment, these three girls join them on a journey that transcends generations.

I know that there is magic in the water, because I feel it in the presence of the saints like Amanda and Madison, Kim and Mike, Truett and Ernie, and all those who have entered the water before as baptized and baptizer alike.

This water is full of magic, and as I dip my toe, foot, ankle, leg, and body down the stairs and into the pool, I feel the hand of God resting on my back, holding me up and guiding me through the water. I know that my Father God is standing beside me, just as my own dad stood firmly planted to my left those 20-years-ago, and more than ever before, I am aware of my ordination and my calling to be God’s messenger and to share God’s story for such a time as this.

The Reverend Emily Holladay is an ordained Baptist Minister and author from Decatur, Georgia.  This article is reprinted with permission.  It first appeared under the title, “There is Magic in the Water,” on Rev. Holladay’s blog, Rev On the Edge.

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