“Remember your baptism.”
This phrase sounded strange to me the first time I heard it. The first time I heard someone say this phrase, I was in a reformed congregation that believed in baptizing infants and small children. If you were baptized when you were only a couple of weeks old (or at most a couple of months), how on earth were you supposed to remember that?
“Touch the water. Bring the water to your forehead. Remember your baptism.”
I had been baptized on Easter Sunday morning at age 11. I remember the water heater was not working that day, and so I was baptized into ice cold water in the baptistry of my church. I remember wearing a white baptismal robe, and then rushing down the hidden stairway behind the baptistry to a place where I could change into my Sunday clothes, the damp hair still reminding me of what had just happened moments before.
One of the arguments I had against infant baptism was that it didn’t make sense to do something so momentous when you would never remember it down the road. Shouldn’t you be able to remember something as transformational as your own baptism?
Later on I learned that I had been baptized as a small child in the Episcopal church where my family had lived. My baptism at age 11 was a second baptism, that I truly believed was my first baptism as it was happening. I tell the whole story about that here. For so many years, I had held tightly to the baptism I could remember even though there had been another before it that was remembered by others.
This morning in a study at my church on Tish Harrison Warren’s book Liturgy of the Ordinary, we glanced through the discussion questions at the back of the book. One of the questions asked, “What do you remember about your baptism or what have you been told about it?” I decided to ask this group full of Presbyterians who had nearly all been baptized as infants to recall their own baptisms.
And it was beautiful.
As each person shared the story they had been told about their baptism, faces lit up. Eyes got misty. Beautiful details were shared. All about stories none of us could physically remember, but somehow knew in our spirits. We remembered them as though we were remembering the sensation of breath in our lungs, a sensation we had all experienced but didn’t often take time to think about.
If you have been baptized, what do you remember about it? Or, if you cannot remember, what have others told you about it? I wonder if you might share those stories with me in the comments. Or, if you’d rather not, perhaps you will share them with a friend or someone in your family. After all, remembering is not just about recalling details, but is about putting the story back together again (re-membering).
When we share these stories, something is put back together inside of us – something we may not have even realized we had become disconnected from.
Remember your baptism. Seriously. Try it.