“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.
That day, I stood in those waters as God’s chosen vessel, welcoming three young girls into the body of Christ. I led in the ritual that all ministers love to do, and none get to nearly enough. And I was bonded to three beautiful, innocent, eager children forever.
Yet as I looked at the water, I was scared out of my mind. I was seven-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 was on the other side.
When I was seven, 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 though he told me not to).
Twenty years later, my dad was not with me. Instead, I was the one called to stand beside the jittery young ladies as their robes absorbed the warm water and their eyes took in the number of faces staring back at them—many with tear stained eyes. I was the one who rubbed their back as their little fingers shook and their stomachs turned to knots. And I was the one to hold them steady as they leaned back and took the plunge into the holy waters of baptism.
When they came back up, I was the first face they saw, 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 are Baptist, so it’s just a symbol. But, on that day, as I crept 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 saw it in the eyes of three little girls who were as eager as they were nervous. I know because I sensed it in the pride of the community gathered in the sanctuary, knowing that in this moment, these three girls joined them on a journey that transcends generations.
I know that there is magic in the water, because I feel it all the time 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.
The water is full of magic, and as I dipped my toe and then placed my foot, ankle, leg, and body down the stairs and into the pool, I felt the hand of God resting on my back, holding me up and guiding me through the water. I know that my Father God was standing beside me, just as my own dad stood firmly planted to my left those twenty-years-ago, and more than ever before, I was aware of my ordination and my calling to be God’s messenger and to share God’s story for
such a time as this.
Emily Holladay is associate pastor for children and families at Broadway Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky. She previously served as interim children’s minister at Smoke Rise Baptist Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia, where this baptism took place. This post initially appeared on her blog, Rev. On the Edge .