Every year, Cinco de Mayo creeps up on me. It never feels like it should be quite so far in the year – May 5th, already? The day wouldn’t be much more to me than someone else’s celebration if it weren’t also the day I was baptized, 14 years ago. Granted, if the day I was baptized wasn’t also Cinco de Mayo, I probably wouldn’t remember that either.
But because the two coincide, I do remember both. Most years I reach this day and am only reminded that I’m getting older.
I’ve spent some time this year thinking back to what it means that I’ve been baptized.(Marilynne Robinson had a good deal to do with it) One of my pastors used to say–every time someone got baptized–that baptism is an outward expression of an inward change. And it was. But a lot of the time, I saw people getting baptized from whom I’d already seen that outward expression of inward change, a shift from old to new, a surrender. Their lives were already speaking to the Spirit at work in them.
I got baptized in second grade. And I don’t remember what made me think I wanted to be baptized. It could have been a number of things:
- Brooke had done it already.
- I’d heard people talk about it a lot.
- I really did love Jesus and knew that was something people did when they’d decided to follow Him.
But whatever the reason, I told my parents I wanted to get baptized. My dad made a worksheet for me, questions to answer about why I wanted to get baptized. I guess he wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing, that I wasn’t making the decision impulsively.
We picked a Sunday night, and I invited some friends.
I don’t remember much about the actual baptism. I don’t remember climbing up the stairs to the baptistry or the temperature of the water or professing my faith in God. I don’t remember being dunked or coming up out of the water. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t wearing my glasses at the time. I have a vague and fuzzy memory of seeing the first few rows of the church full of people from my vantage point in the baptistry.
I do remember that afterwards my mom braided my short, wet hair into two French braids that were tied together in the back, and I wore a lavender and navy striped polo shirtdress. We went down to the basement kitchen of the church where we were going to have cake, and my mom took my picture beside it. In the picture I’m smiling behind my pink wire glasses, a recent addition to my face. The cake said, “Congratulations, Ashley!” and it was store-bought, which was rare. There was a gold cross on it made entirely out of sugar. When it came off the cake, I was allowed to lick it and was disappointed that it didn’t taste very good.
I knew I had done something good that day. I remember announcing it to my class at school the next day.
Over the years, as I’ve watched people in my church get baptized and profess that Jesus is the Lord of their life, I’ve wanted to get rebaptized. Did I know what I was doing the first time? I really do mean it now. I don’t think I knew what I was getting into then.
But, as my parents have reminded me, this misses the point. Baptism is a one-time sacrament, a landmark moment. It’s not about whether you’ve got it all together at the time. It marks a step in a life of faithfulness.
There’s something especially holy about the moment where someone chooses to be baptized as a representation of their faith in front of their church family. Every time, something in me calls out, Me too. I choose this, too.
Not just baptism, although I’d choose that again, too, but the body of believers who profess faith and remind me of mine. I’d choose the church again, the relationship with Jesus again, because it has given me life abundantly.
It really is a gift that Cinco de Mayo bookmarks today for me, that I have a readymade reminder that I’ve chosen to follow the God who loves me and calls me to life.