“I never thought I’d see this day,” said one reflective and stunned woman whose husband had just gotten baptized.
Several of us were standing in the west wing on the other side of the exit doors congratulating people who had come out of the water, high-fiving and cheering. But her husband simply stood there soaked and weeping salty tears mixed with chlorinated water, shoulders heaving. We embraced. He literally couldn’t speak.
As he sloshed down the hall to the changing room, still unable to talk, she said slowly, “This place has changed our lives. I never thought I’d see my dad come to Jesus, but shortly before he died, he surrendered his life to Christ. And then my husband fought me to not come here, but here he is today. I never really thought this day would come.” She had baptized him herself but I think short of being there in the water, she looked like someone just awakened from a vivid dream, not sure what is real and what isn’t.
After the last person came out, I looked at our Junior High pastor, Matt Milthaler, and said, “That’s our paycheck.” He smiled.
It’s not “this place” that changed them. There are times I wish we could take credit for a cool environment or the clever turn-of-a-phrase, but it doesn’t matter how hip the place and how wordsmithed the message; without the presence of the Holy Spirit, we’re just putting on a mediocre show. Or as Jesus put it, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15.5).
God have mercy on us if we ever forget how beautiful and powerful these moments are. May we never take these weekends for granted.
And I’m still waiting for some baptizer to get snatched away by the Holy Spirit. To quote Homer (Simpson, that is), “Whoohoo!”
And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch saw him no more, but went on his way rejoicing. Acts 8:39 (New American Standard Bible)