C’mon In Boys, The Water Is Fine–Part 2

There are certain immutable laws of the universe which govern the course of the day. The sun rises in the east and sits in the west. Politicians will talk a good game, and when push comes to shove, fail to follow through (or use their fists instead). And whenever I absolutely have to be somewhere in a hurry, I will inevitably end up behind an octogenarian in an Olds. Or in this case, a memaw in a Marquis.

There were no cars behind me or coming toward me, and it would have been a simple matter to have downshifted, crossed the double yellow, and blown granny’s doors off on my way to church. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something not quite right about that idea. So instead of grinding my gears, I ground my teeth instead, hoping and praying that my slow-going foil was about to reach her destination.

Mercifully, she signaled right. And after she very sloooowly executed her turn, the road ahead was clear. Truly, God will not allow us to be tempted beyond that which we can bear.

After that, it was all a blur (I’ve always wanted to say that). I entered the building, trying to appear calm and collected as everyone I passed on my way to the “ready room” smiled, nodded, or touched my arm and offered up a heartfelt “Congratulations.” I saw my friend C. who had just baptized his son. C. and his family are moving to Egypt this summer.

“You too?” I asked.

“Yep,” he replied, “just tying up a few loose ends before we leave. And by the way, roll up your sleeves as high as you possibly can.”

Baptism Central was already full of dripping wet baptizees and baptizers. I realized quickly, though, that everyone else was done, that the congregants were biding their time working their way through several verses of various praise songs and that all eyes were on me and Number Three, who was standing there, grinning ear-to-ear, clad in nothing but his plum-colored surgical scrubs. There was no time to waste.

But first, the waders. Rubber waders are wonderful for fly-fishing in Montana; not so much, though, for an optometrist who’s just running around at lunch trying to do some errands. Fortunately for me, Numbers One and Two were there, and serving as my seconds, they helped me unload my keys, wallet and electronics, slide into the waders and slowly stand. I was suddenly transformed; one moment, a confident, professional man in shirt and tie, and in the next, a middle-aged Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

“Are you ready for this?” I asked Number Three.

“Yes I am!” he replied.

“Then let’s do it.”

Waddle, waddle, down into the water we went, flash bulbs popping, people singing. I had done this twice before and figured that it would be old hat. But I’m about 40 lbs lighter than the last time I did the deed, and once again, the laws of physics took over. As I set foot in the baptistery, the waders ballooned out like a Coast Guard life raft, and I started to float; not so much walking on water as treading it.

As I lost my footing and started to fall backwards, I began to recall, in rich detail, the old Garrison Keillor monologue about the gaggle of Lutheran pastors who overloaded a pontoon boat on Lake Wobegon on their way to a weenie roast and ended up going down with the ship and receiving–at long last–a full immersion.

It was an odd image, granted, but it must have been enough to snap me to my senses. I quickly grabbed the side of the baptistery and managed to steady myself. No, no, not today, I thought. Not now, not ever.

I stood there for a moment, one hand on the baptistery, one hand on Number Three’s shoulder. What was it I was going to say again?

Oh yeah, now I remember:

Number Three (I didn’t actually say “Number Three” but used his real name instead), since you were born, you’ve been a part of our family, and therefore a part of the family of God. But there comes a time for those raised in a household of faith to step out on their own, make their own decision and commit, in a full and lasting way, to become a disciple of Christ–forever.

Now is such a time for you. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the son of the most high God? (Yes I do!) It’s upon that confession–which is yours and yours alone–that I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Praise be to God who has made this possible.

Down into the cleansing flood he went…

Let’s see, every square millimeter covered? Check. One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three. There, that oughta take.

…and up from his watery grave he arose.

Amazingly, I managed to stay dry up until that moment. But no more. After Number Three’s big bear hug, I was soaked to the core.

Number Three’s friends who had gathered at the steps of the baptistery cheered and applauded and then began to serenade him with a chorus of his favorite praise song “Mourning Into Dancing,” complete with the little hip-hop riff that he had composed, added to the song and taught them.

There were more pictures and hugs and hearty congratulations all around, but for me, there was only a mad dash home to change clothes (how do preachers manage to stay so dry year in and year out?), grab a quick bite to eat and head back to the office for my one o’clock patient. Patients in the morning, a baptism at lunch and an afternoon of routine exams–all in a day’s work.

Later that day, Eyegal made me one of my favorite meals–shrimp and scallops topped off with Barilla Plus noodles (tasty, rich in protein and Omega-3s–I highly recommend them), washed down with a glass of God’s finest Australian red. There is nothing that says “I love you” like a fine meal, made with tender care.

Number Three was fairly quiet at dinner, but he explained to us that up until now, he had been a little afraid to take that final step. But somewhere amidst the barely-controlled chaos of Impact weekend, he had found his strength and his courage. He updated his Facebook and MySpace to reflect the day’s changes (news travels fast these days), and later he collapsed on the couch, the College World Series playing in the background.

It was a deep and restful sleep. It was the slumber of a young man who had paused, looked ahead, and decided that the tyranny of self and the weight of ruling over one’s own life were loads too heavy to bear. He wore a gentle yoke now, and his shoulders were relaxed from a burden no longer there. He slept like a man with a clean conscience, like one for whom “neither God nor man’s got nothin’ on.”

For Number Three, the water had been very fine indeed.

  1. Terri

    I’ve been waiting all morning on this and it was worth it. God has blessed you with a wonderful family. He blesses us all.

  2. ses

    Thanks for sharing! I was able to baptize my two sons indoors in warm water, but my daughter required a trip to camp and a wade into a cold swimming pool. Worth every shiver.

  3. Donna

    Thank you for the “rest of the story”. I thought that lady in the Marquis lived in Cullman…maybe she was lost.

    Very beautiful account of what had to be a very special day, and I love the words you said to him.

  4. David U

    I got to baptize my Number One, and then witness him baptize my Number Two several years later. Isn’t it grand? I never will forget the meaning the Supper had following each of those baptisms……..quite different than usual.

    God is good,

  5. Tarwater

    Very nice. I know you are both proud and glad, as you should be.

  6. Mike the Eyeguy

    Thanks for all the kind thoughts, guys. I appreciate your comments.

    Yes, comments are good. They’re sort of like that spare change you toss in the case of the violin player on the street corner whose music you find pleasing and satisfying.

    Or not. 🙂

  7. Ed

    I remember somebody talking recently about wearing ballast with those waders. I saw the quick grab for the side and wondered if you were going to go down too. Then I started to wonder what kind of recovery and presentation would you make if you went down. Guess I’ll never know.

  8. Mike the Eyeguy

    Probably something like:

    “That’s okay. I probably needed another one anyway.”

  9. lAURA

    What a great account of this wonderful event. We are so happy for this great decision, I know you and eyegal are proud too. Thanks for sharing. Saw eyegal this week, cannot wait for lots of college (roommate) stories. Just kidding. You just have such a great way of capturing it in writing.

  10. Mike the Eyeguy

    ‘Pre-she-ate that Laura! We are very proud of Number Three indeed.

  11. pepperfarms

    Only within the deep old traditions of the CoC is it possible to elicit shouts and spasms of laughter in 4 grown-ups (over 40), by drawing on the baptismal rituals of our youth, which for some of us will be forever linked with waders! Growing up with “speak where the Bible speaks; silent where the Bible’s silent,” I was for many years certain that the only reason I could never pinpoint the biblical reference to “waders” in my concordance was simply due to my poor spelling. PS. You, Eyegal and number one, two, and three continue to be standard-bearers for so many of us.

  12. Mike the Eyeguy

    Hey, my favorite Tennessee farm family chimes in! I’m glad it brought forth a chuckle or two. Eyegal and I are trying to figure out who the other two over-40 adults are. We have our ideas, but we’re not sure.

    Yes, you will search in vain for waders. I couldn’t find surgical scrubs either.

    Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

  13. jason

    Heartfelt congratulations!

  14. Mike the Eyeguy

    And a heartfelt thanks right back atcha!

  15. Mike the Eyeguy


    The memaw in the Marquis drove very slooowly by our house last night.

    She smiled and gave us a big thumbs up.


    Mikee – I’m a little late with this – but just saw it in your blog. I about peed my pants picturing you taking a digger in the baptistry! But instead – I just had tears in my eyes thinking about how proud you must be – of all your family. Congrats & take care!

  17. Mike the Eyeguy

    Lynda Bee, it’s never too late to join the fun! Thanks for stopping by and for your warm thoughts. To make one laugh so hard that it leads to near-incontinence is the goal of every wannabe humorist!

    Blessings to you and your family.

  18. Joseph P. Mathews

    I’m subscribing to your blog and hoping that you can write an Episcopalian’s guide to CofC ordering of the Church…meaning I can do baptisms now, but it’s more for emergency.  I’ve only really had one CofC friend and he wasn’t a church wonk, so we didn’t get to really pick brains.

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