He had been on the fringe of the group for days – always far away enough to disengage and live unbothered in his own world. So when he announced he would not bring a bathing suit for the baptism practice, I was not surprised nor did I push the issue. He had not been baptized and has always been cautious of ecclesial traditions. Now that the time was here, he paced around the outdoor pool at Wingate. The rest of the fifteen youth were out in the waters learning the art of baptizing one another with laminated sheets of different baptismal creeds floating next to them. It was our afternoon adventure in the Echo Choices Group at Passport Youth Camp where youth were exploring God’s call to ministry in their lives.
This early decision to stand apart from the group was made before he was near the waters. As he paced around the pool, you could see something within him turning. Perhaps it was the all-powerful draw of a cold pool on a hot summer day. Perhaps it was the smiles on the youth’s faces as this liturgical tradition was experienced with joy and laughter. Or perhaps it was the mysterious tugging of God through the waters.
Moments later, he was drenched – jeans and all – standing in the pool amidst his peers. His face was all smiles, caught up in the moment as the tug of the waters overcame him. Without much encouragement needed, he joined another youth in practicing baptism – baptizing the other boy and then letting the other boy baptize him. He even got out of the pool to participate in the practice of remembering your baptism.
Later that night, fresh from the transformative waters, he opened up to our group – sharing of his struggle with depression. Taken aback from these strong words from such an introverted middle schooler, the youth were in awe of his vulnerability and honesty. Within moments, like dominos, the group followed likewise –living “Life Together” by sharing in the deep pains and struggles of real life. That night, the boy who had been glued to the back row alone for the first three days of camp had felt the transformative power of God’s Love. I found him in the front row for the rest of the week.
God is at work among us – with tugs more powerful than the fears and anxieties that seek to control us. May we follow his lead – jumping boldly into the pool of transformative love to be forever changed.