Baptism 


I drove up to the mountains sensing freedom, but drove past my intended destination of the hot springs. Something was moving me, I was not in control but I was enveloped in complete peace. The interstate turned into an off-ramp, the pavement turned into dirt, and the 4-wheel drive turned into 2-leg only. Where I could no longer drive up the snowy and muddy road, on the stereo Roberta Flack was singing “Killing Me Softly” and I, content with my own slow death. 

I carried a bottle full of water and a tattered bible and let the tune play on in my head and carry me upwards along the bank of a swollen spring stream. Soon I was singing loudly, to the mountainsides across the valley and to the sky above them. I left the path and walked into a small clearing where there had been dug an old fire-pit. Purification. Breaking a bark-piece from a fallen spruce log, I chewed the forest medicine. I felt the ‘friendly fir’ needles with my fingers and remembered the sub-alpine cure. Fingertips can be so wise with all their nerve endings and their intrinsic knowledge of the nature of the period, the asymptote, the alpha and omega. I whistled the song of a meadowlark and heard his call come closer each time and watched him fly overhead, saying a silent good-bye, “see you on the other-side.” For it was the stream’s turn to sing, mine to listen and follow.

By the culvert and the patient glacial waters, I sat and tasted more of the woods, the strawberry leaves by my cross-legged knees and lodgepole pine needles within reach. As their juices met my blood, all sentient cells cleaved to the covenant and danced in anticipation of what was about to occur. I remembered that two days before the choir director had asked me if I’d ever heard Bobby McFerrin’s version of Psalm 23. Psalm 23. I opened the Book exactly to Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd. He leadeth me to green pastures, beside still waters. He restoreth my soul. Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Then I looked to the sky and the clouds parted to reveal the sun and as large snowflakes fell to the ground, I had never seen them so near the sun too; and the sky shifting, never so beautiful. I opened my mouth in awe and let the Holy Spirit in, feeling it flow down my throat, heart, solar plexus, root. After three and a half years of battling it, I was now ready to kiss Jesus Christ on the cheek. Now I would be both of him and his betrothed. Baptism!

The promise of new life led the dance as I walked further up the creek to an even more secluded spot and undressed. In these holiest moments of life it’s funny how the feeling of ‘unbelievable’ is eclipsed by true faith. I could not stop smiling, not that I tried. The unbelief of my flesh stood awestruck at the glorious wonder and rapture occurring in my soul and radiating outward to encompass my whole being. It was this ecliptic state in which I walked barefoot and naked into the creek and laid for a moment in its glacial waters. My cells, both of the flesh and of the spirit, now could never forget this moment. Truly they were all restored, their DNA at once and forever altered. I cried out in shocking gratitude, feeling bewildered that I had waited so long to “say yes” and as I redressed I realized, even measuring the happiness of innocence, I had never experienced this fullness of gladness. It is what makes the sun shine.

Oh, outpouring of love-truth, tree-sap, soul-song, warrior-blood, sky-rain, God-Word, sun-light, Christ-Love! I am ready to live again; to live blessed as dearly beloved.

Painting by John Brokenshire

2012, Amaya Engleking

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7 comments

  1. oldepunk · April 3

    this is so beautiful. Blessed you be. Amen!

  2. saynotoclowns · April 3

    How funny, I got reacquainted with that Roberta song recently. Hadn’t heard it in years and it’s beyond beautiful of course.
    Also, I read recently about Psalm 23 by a pastor friend of a friend, both Hebrew experts. He was taking a look at bible verses we all take for granted, and how there are amazing nuances often lost in translation. He brought up where it says “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” but the word for “follow” is more like pursue, in the sense of God’s love and mercy relentlessly and passionately pursuing us. We’ve talked before about the way God’s passion for us is watered down in a sense in the translation to English. Sadly unfortunate!
    This is a really beautifully crafted piece! Thank you for sharing this. (It’s also brought back really vivid memories of the mountains!)

    • Gospel Isosceles · April 3

      It is awesome and revelatory to study languages for this reason you mention. English is not my first language for prayer, but I use it as well as snippets of other spoken languages to interpret it. I think the pastor of your friend can enlighten people’s hearts with this teaching: follow as pursue. And God is pursuing us! For years I had a recurring dream, often in different settings, but there was always this constant: Jesus asking me to kiss his cheek, but I always refused. Even after the miraculous moment of (the seed of) my conversion, I still went through almost four years of fighting it, saying, “Me? A Christian? No way!” Thank God for being persistent. I’m so grateful for your thoughts; I’m curious about your spiritual journey.

  3. Pingback: Torn | Gospel Isosceles
  4. toddbschlueter · 11 Days Ago

    (It’s also brought back really vivid memories of the mountains! ” Thank God for being persistent.

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