This Saturday we baptized an older mother. Her children were baptized about 10 years ago and she fell in love with the Church. The problem was that she couldn’t find the strength or the resources to leave her partner and the partner would not marry in any way, shape, or form. She lived 17 years with him, cooking, cleaning, working part-time to support the family expenses – but, the husband felt for whatever reason that marriage was not necessary.
The baptism was a very spiritual experience. She cried several times. The daughters cried several times. I cried. Sometimes as new converts enter the waters of baptism, they enter without having to make a complete turn-around in their life. Some converts have to change the direction of their life’s course 10 or 15 degrees. But others have to change their life’s course 180 degrees. And for those converts, their baptism has an added sweetness and significance. As their head lifts from the water, they leave everything behind in the water. All the sin, all the weight, all the guilt and shame and tears and fights and grudges are simply left floating there in the water. As they leave the waters of baptism, there’s a lightness in their step – because they have become adopted in Christ. They have accepted him as their Savior, and he has made them clean.
I think at first I was hesitant about the cleansing power of baptism. To foreign eyes, it may seem such a strange experience. A man raises his arm to the square, utters a prayer, and dunks a person completely in the water. But the experiences leading to baptism – the changes in habits, patterns, actions, thoughts, words – all lead up to this climactic moment in which the person decides to make their belief in Christ permanent. I imagine we are baptized for the same reason we are married. Certainly, a man and woman can fall in love without being married. Certainly, they can act and look as if they are married. But without actually being married, something is missing. There’s lacking conviction, commitment, a solemn and sacred proclamation that the man and woman have been placed together in a binding agreement. Similarly, a change towards living a Christian life is wonderful. But without baptism, there’s lacking conviction and commitment. I firmly believe that those
couples who truly love one another want to make marital commitments. Those who truly understand and believe in and love Christ have a desire to be baptized. They follow Christ into the waters and are baptized in His name, in His way, with His authority.
I think I’ve been waiting for the moment in which missionary work would get easier. I’ve been waiting for perfect confidence in the language, perfect confidence in speaking to everyone in the street, complete understanding of the lessons. At times I’ve forgotten that struggle is a necessary precedent of true joy.
The difference between suffering in the struggle and smiling in the struggle is a frame of mind. I pray night and day that my faith might increase, that the capacity of my heart to love and feel and empathize might increase, and that my focus (and subsequently obedience to the Lord) might increase. Step by step, I can feel the power of the refiner’s fire and the fuller’s soap molding me to be the tool that the Lord needs.
I love this work.
I love the Lord.
I love you all dearly.
May the grace and mercy of our Savior, Jesus Christ, be with you.