Tabatha. Butterfly Bean. Water baby. Newly baptized Christian. As a grandmother with a passion to see her grandchildren following Jesus, that last one thrills me.
Nearby water has a magnetic attraction for our grandbeans, especially during the dog days of summer. Our warm weather visits to nearby Good Spirit Lake, where the Beans live during the summer, almost always include, if not a swim, at least a few moments of wading.
Like her mother and me, Tabatha has an affinity for natural bodies of water. Creek, lake, stream, puddle – if it’s hot and she’s beside it, she’ll soon be in it. On one such day while holidaying near a cold northern lake with her brother, grandfather and I, we walked to the shore and stood on the dock. “I wish I’d worn my swimsuit,” she said. “I’d jump in.”
“Never stopped me when I was your age,” I told her. Seconds later, she launched.
“Nana, come in here,” she called when she surfaced, streaming and smiling. “It’s SO BEAUTIFUL!” Some pleasures have lost the attraction they had for me as a child. But that day, after my initial intake of breath, the chilly embrace of Lake Deschambault felt as sweet as the glassy-surfaced mountain lakes and oceanside beaches I swam in at ten. Sheer bliss.
When she asked if her granddad and I would attend her baptism, it didn’t surprise me to hear that it would take place at Good Spirit Lake. Her church has a lovely warm baptismal tank; optimal temperature for a dunking. No algae. No roar of motor boats or vacationers’ voices drowning out the words of the pastor or baptismal candidate. But Jesus got baptized in a river and Good Spirit Lake – God’s Lake, as it was once called by some, (thanks, Joyce Anaka) seemed right to Tabatha. Me too.
On the evening of her baptism, the temperature, which had soared to around forty Celsius two days prior, had fallen below room temperature – with wind. At the lakeshore, Tabatha drew in the sand with her toe and shyly explained to her friends and family members, gathered to cheer her on, how her faith in God and love for Jesus Christ had motivated her to obey his call to be baptized as a testimony to her growing faith.
In a moment she would walk into the lake wearing only a swimsuit. “Cold water doesn’t bother me,” she added, standing fearless while we onlookers huddled in hoodies and jackets. A sudden shiver, and she added. “But cold air does!”
She and her pastor father, our son-in-law Kendall, waded further offshore. “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost,” he said, bending down to lower her under the surface. As she has so often before, she came up streaming and smiling – but with a little squeal.
Baptism doesn’t make us Christian. But it’s another step on the walk of Christian faith. This Nana’s heart swells.