Now, as a father of four children whom I have had the joyous privilege of baptizing, these memories are certainly the most precious. Each was special for different reasons. Each one remains special, as my children continue to live by the Spirit and walk with the Lord.
There have also been some humorous baptism events. One in particular–a most memorable baptism–comes to mind. At about 5’8” in height, I am not a tall guy. At the time this event occurred, I weighed about 170 pounds. (Those were the days.)
It was the dead of winter. We were in the suburbs of Wichita, Kansas. It was cold–I mean harsh Kansas winter cold. In fact, it had been bitterly cold for more than a week. And, it was late on the coldest night of all. The north wind was howling. Parts of Nebraska were blowing past the windows which overlooked a barren field on the east side of the building.
The baptistery at this church was behind the pulpit on the north-facing side of the building. Now, the baptistery heater may have worked at some point in the past. But, it was definitely out-of-service at this time. The dressing rooms doubled as vestibules for the emergency exits. To say these rooms were drafty would be a gross understatement. If a person needed to sit down to make ready for a baptism or to get dressed afterward, ice cold metal folding chairs were readily available.
The young man I was baptizing was nearly as big as one of the barns on the farm where he was raised. He was nearly a foot taller than me. He weighed a tad over 250 pounds. He was solid, too. Pure muscle.
I started my years of ministry in southern Colorado. So, I was no stranger to cold-water-rescues of penitent sinners. I began to explain to this young man what we were about to experience. He interrupted with an assurance that there would be no problem whatsoever. He went on to courteously explain that he was ready to be baptized and didn’t want to wait for even one more syllable of caution from me. I gladly obliged.
As we entered the water our lips instantly turned blue. Both of us shrieked uncontrollably as we gasped for air. I tried to say something about not wanting him to be shocked when he went under the water, but it was inaudible. I also attempted to state something meaningful just before I baptized him. This, too, was garbled.
The last thing I remember before baptizing him was the look of pleading on his face. It was like he was asking me to please…please…please hurry.
When I buried him in the watery grave, he instantly became so rigid I became alarmed. I mean It really frightened me. He was like a 250 pound slab of concrete! In the language of my youth, “It skeert me half ta death!”
I took the plunge with him at this point. I reached behind him and attempted to lift him up. I was able to get a good hold on the garment near the middle of his back. This was good enough for me to hold on tightly while he pulled me under.
Just about the time my nose was going under, he came alive. His arms were flailing. He was grasping for something solid to hold on to and pull himself up. We were both instantly engaged in a demonstration of how to climb a ladder when there is no ladder.
A couple of seconds later we were both standing in the baptistery looking at each other and laughing our heads off. Astonished family members and friends were gathered on the landings above the steps on both sides of the baptistery. They soon were roaring in laughter.
I’ve always thought the he certainly received the Spirit when he was baptized. The room was so full of joy, there was no doubting it!
Well, that’s one of my most memorable baptism experiences.
© Bill Williams, a fellow sojourner