Several weeks ago, my husband and I plunged two of our daughters into the ice-cold baptismal waters of Clear Creek. Our church family enveloped us that late summer morning, wrapping around the creek’s banks, nodding in agreement as eyes filled with tears and phone screens flashed with the simplest and most profound of glories.
Below the surface, one at a time, we supported our daughters’ heads and held them around their waists, blessing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And these new creations (our firstborn and lastborn) emerged, mouths agape, stunned by the creek’s chill.
And we celebrated!
As Jesus followers, we believe baptism is an earthly representation of a spiritual reality – of resurrection and identity. The earthly lives we inhabit plunge beneath waters and arise to greater Life; the lives we occupy alone are now wrapped round with Christ and the fellowship of believers.
Yes, friends, this is Good News.
Yet something else struck me as Michael and I waded hip-high into the baptismal with our daughters: we share the same waters. In ways, specific and universal, we belong to one another.
For when Jesus laid down his heavenly rights, entered earth through the birth canal and into a feed trough, right into the middle of fear and unrest, he plunged deep into humanity’s shared waters.
Jesus chose to identify. To say to the leper and the outcast, to the beggar and the wealthy ruler, to the child and to the woman: I see you. Your reality matters to me.
So when we hear our black brothers and sisters say that life hurts, that they are hated and afraid – when they cry out, “Black lives matter,” we must slow to listen, to release defenses and allow their daily experience to truly mean something to us. We must affirm that their lives and identities, drawn up in God’s image, do indeed matter.
When we hear her story of an abusive marriage, when she shares her fears and the way the Church has furthered her abuse, it should cause us to feel and ask, “How can I, as a part of Christ’s broken bride, partner with Life and my sister’s healing? How can I be a part of resurrection?”
When we see children’s eyes pleading from across the world, Syrian refugees and how they sleep, Christian martyrs and random attacks on town squares and airports, we should care and act. Fatigue cannot be our excuse. Sisters, we must pray.
When we hear law enforcement officers and first-responders talk of their commitment to their communities, of their PTSD and sleepless nights, we must listen and thank. Always remember the honor of those in power willing to stoop low to serve.
We all know this world is thick with pain and oppression, ripe with discontent, abuse and despair. This, we say, is precisely why Jesus came.
Recently, I’ve considered again the word “compassion,” its root in the Latin, meaning to suffer with, and I’ve thought about those waters of healing. How I cannot (not that I would want to) separate the water of my daughters’ baptism from that of my own – just downstream.
Sisters, our aching world is reaching for a rope in the deep torrents, looking for those who hold the other end. Our world needs those willing to feel its pain, to value it above their own comforts. The world aches for those willing to abide with, to sit with, to listen and pray with, to demonstrate mercy – in short, to care. (Romans 12:15)
I recognized this week that the first seven letters of the word “compassion” spell “compass.” And how fitting this seems, for as Jesus-followers and hope-bringers, it is our compassion that ought to guide us.
Right to God’s own heart.
For what does the Lord requires of us, but to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).
And so to plunge into the waters together.
Ashley Larkin strives to be a place of welcome and seeks hard after the beauty found in broken things. A listener, writer, speaker and mentor to young women, Ashley is passionate about the healing work of Jesus, redemption stories and clinging to hope as a lifeline. She lives in a 112-year-old house in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, three daughters and their yellow lab puppy, Clementine.