Neon gardens, sticky licks of dripping sun and pastel chalk clouds in the spring sky beckon me to remember tickling rain, fresh, cool and light. Dark and dangerous, too. With light comes darkness. Both inevitable, both necessary and sustaining of the other.
Two years ago on Easter Sunday, my 5-month-old daughter, now 2 years old, was baptized. Her godparents, spiritual family and her grandparents, biological family, were there to witness and partake in this Sacrament. Her parish family was also there, offering vows to uphold her in the truth, love and grace of Christ.
At five months, babies seem sufficiently aware to be vulnerable to anxiety and fear. New experiences can be daunting and, as we approached this day, I imagined myself through innocent, wide and curious eyes, drinking in a cartoonish and out of perspective world spinning by me, a new and tiny person on earth.
Frightened by the unexpectedness of baptism, my daughter clung to the priest's robe, offered him a whimpering look of concern when he gently took her from my arms to dunk her whole body in the prepared baptismal font. As her tiny, new body was immersed in holy water, her fear surfaced. She bellowed in a panging cry, flailing against our priest, who smiled at her and secured her in his arms, called and blessed and favored to do this task.
Post-dunk, our priest handed her to me, and her crying immediately halted, in mid-air, in mid-breath, prompting the church body in attendance to laugh at how quickly she "recovered." My husband and I held her, she reached for my strings of pearls and mouthed them, and she laughed out loud, too.
There is a visceral and magnetic power of babies to express profound and concentrated emotion in experiences adults take for granted. For us, new experiences are terrifying, too. Learning to trust a different supervisor at work, making ourselves vulnerable in new relationships, existing on much less income when we lose a job, listening to our inner voice, acknowledging it, understanding what we can no longer ignore. We take up a cross of brave faces for the fight.
These are huge leaps for fully grown bodies. Stepping out in faith, living not just by sight, we exit the womb of comfort and cling for dear life to the nearest embraceable person or thing. In the case of my daughter, she grabbed at the priest's robe, like the hem Christ's garment, where throngs of his followers sought healing.
Taken into unfamiliar hands, we are immersed into darkness, baptized by fire and fear until we are able to see beyond the immediate moment. Handed directly into arms of safety, of an embrace so real, so palpable, we are wrapped in the deep and powerful arms of home.
And to realize it's not as bad as we first thought. To say: I was naked and scared, cold and exposed. I was held by new hands, stared into the eyes of the unknown, feared drowning in this water. I was terrified. But now I'm home, held in the arms of my mother, the flesh of my flesh, encircled by those I hold dear and who hold me dear, swaddled in warmth on dry and sturdy land. I'm safe. I was frightened. Now I'm safe.
And to laugh at the silliness of our fears, as we deepen into awareness. We will never know what's on the other side if we dare not cross the street. The stinging sun in my eyes and the creep of rain on my skin. Both to harm, both to nourish.
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