This morning I watched with wet eyes as my youngest son Joseph was baptized by my wife, Pastor Gail Song Bantum. It was emotional on a number of levels. He is our youngest and last to be baptized. His baptism reminds me of the baptisms of his older brothers and how much has changed since their bodies were submerged into waters of death and life. I have been blessed to see all of my children grow into a knowledge of Jesus and a desire to walk with him in their lives. None of us are perfect, but we are all seeking to live into his image day by day.
Joseph’s baptism was just as special but also somewhat different because of the sheer excitement he had for this day. Having watched his older brothers and others be baptized, he has been literally counting down the days, confirming the details of where he would stand and what he would say. His exuberance for this moment has been a joy and a blessing to my own walk.
And as it is with every child, Joseph entered into those waters with his own story. In fact, his baptism was perhaps different than most because he was baptized with goggles on. And not just your little “Michel Phelps-speedo-olympic-racing-goggles” but the “snorkling-looking-for-exotic-fish-goggles.”
In talking with him in the last year about baptism and about his readiness for this part of his walk with God, he was always excited, but scared. He didn’t want to get his face wet and he was especially scared of getting water in his eyes and his nose. “Maybe we should just wait” my wife and I thought, “until he can do it without the goggles…”
But that day did not seem to be coming and it was becoming increasingly clear that he was ready for this step in his life. So we said, “You wanna wear goggles for baptism? You can wear goggles for your baptism!”
He appeared to the church to the amusement of all with giggles and cheers. But in some ways I was deeply struck by the symbolism of my goggle-wearing son on his baptism day.
So many of us are waiting for the perfect set of circumstances before we give ourselves up to the death and life Christ makes possible for us. Sometimes we want complete the work ourselves on the front end to die to our fears and die to our transgressions or just die to the embarrassment of being the center of attention.
But here was my son, submerging his fears along with his faith. He was still afraid of the water, not sure of what was going to come but in his nasally proclamation of faith beneath his full-faced goggles he was also professing that a life of following is not the presentation of a perfectly disciplined life put on display for all to see. Rather, our life of following is a profession of the fears we struggle with and willfully submerge into the waters of Christ’s life and death for us.
My prayer for Joseph is that someday he will not be afraid of getting his face wet. And I am sure he will soon enough. I am sure that his life will slowly conform to the image of Christ whom he loves and adores. But I also hope that he continues to faithfully confess his weaknesses and submit them to Jesus. In doing so today, he preached to me and reminded me that it is not the perfections of my life that God desires, but the continual truthfulness of my confession. God will do the rest.