After a message delivered from a prophet like Ezekiel or Habakkuk, it would be easy for us to leave church wondering about the possibility of real hope for humankind. These instances of idolatry and forgetting the grace of God’s repeating forgiveness don’t end with the Israelites. They don’t seem at all to be a part of our ancient history. Observe. This is the state of humankind today. This is you and this is me.
At the end of our church service we walked together down to the beach to gather and celebrate an ocean baptism. It was glorious. Those being baptized being immersed in the waves as cheering crowds stood nearby, not caring if their clothes were getting wet up to their knees as long as they could grab a great snapshot with their camera phones. sunny skies seemed to smile on everything as if to say “well done. I am so so pleased with all of this”. sandy feet, tears and laughter, kids digging holes, purses strewn along in a row, so haphazardly.
In all of this holy activity, there is always the spirituality of imperfection. Baptism is sacred and special and yet so predictably not about becoming perfect. It is quite the opposite. You become wet, cold, and in this case, sandy and salty. You plug your nose and someone dips you backwards into water and then pulls you up again. Nothing perfect about this. You don’t immediately become free from all pain and struggle and temptation. Nothing perfect about you.
But that one moment, that moment of emerging from the deep and the dark and opening our eyes for the first baptized moment, that moment is our introduction to a way of new life. It is the representation of our forever-new identity as one now has access to forgiveness, healing, hope, a future, a new life.
The new life we have symbolically been born into will carry us through the days when we simply feel damp and cold and haphazard. Through all the sermons that hit us in a place where we believe that the pastor must have been reading our emails. Through all of the failures and perception of failure that meets us in places where we least expect it. Jesus must have known that we would need these symbolic and sacred moments where crashing imperfection meets redemption. It is our inevitable cycle of life if we will only awaken to it and beg God to plunge us into the ocean, wash us clean, and bring us back up to breath again.
In Christ, our life aim cannot be about becoming a perfect human; it is about our willingness to step into the deepest waters with God knowing that He cannot stop keeping His promise to be with us, to love us, to forgive us, to redeem us. He couldn’t turn His back on the Israelites and He cannot turn His back on me. Or you.
Let God take you to your own ocean this week and show you the very ways He wants to help you leave your old life and your old notions about being perfect behind.
You are His, You are loved, You are new.