Born of water, born of the Spirit

Born of water and spirit

Written by: Tabi

We sat around the table, talking.  The expression on his face moved from puzzled, to surprised, to shocked.

“Why,” he asked, irritated, “has no one ever bothered to tell me any of this?”

***

We were sad to see her go.  Nina was one of the earliest members of our new church, and the most vocal advocate for serious Bible study.  But circumstances change, and she ended up needing to move to a city about 5 hours away, to move in and become primary caretaker for her parents.

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She still joined our church online, but eventually asked if there was any way to get something going in her city.   Her father, Nina explained, has never been a Christian, though he always encouraged his wife and daughters to go “do their religious thing”.  He has a severe heart condition and no one knows how long he’ll be around.  She was pressed for time.

Mike and Jaime talked it over, and decided to travel down every other week to do a Bible Study in their home, beginning in the book of John.  Jaime and Malli would go down together every time.  Mike and I, having very young children to think about, decided to take turns going.

And so we reached John 3.  Now, John 3 is a beautiful little chapter, because it opens with a poignant conversation about baptism, and then proceeds to tell stories about baptisms, and wraps it all up neatly with John the Baptist‘s affirmation that the teachings of Jesus are the words of God (so you best be believing them).

We talked this all over, and why it’s important to be baptized, that Jesus says “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again”.  Jaime decided to buckle down and do a little more pushing.  He asked each person at the table to seriously ask themselves if they thought they’d be in Heaven when they died.  Nina responded that she knew she would.  Nina’s mother, we thought, would respond just as confidently.

We were wrong.

She broke down crying, confessing that she didn’t know.  She’s not always a very good person, though Lord knows she tries.  She certainly hoped so.  And she cried some more.  My heart squeezed.  This is the deep cost of not teaching the truth about grace.

“You’ve been baptized?” asked Jaime.  She nodded.  He leaned toward her, holding her gaze.  “Then, from what I can see, from what you tell me, and what your daughter tells me, and what the Bible tells me, there isn’t anything hindering you from your Lord.  You live in His grace and you have nothing . . . NOTHING to fear.”  Then the tears were happy ones.

“Now.”  Jaime shifted his gaze to Nina’s father.  “You, sir.  Do you think you’re saved?”

He thought about it, nodded, and responded confidently.  “Yes.”

Jaime pushed again.  “Have you been baptized?”

He nodded, but his wife and daughter shook their heads.  “He was baptized as a baby,” responded Nina.

“Ah.”  So we went into the details of baptism.  Why you must first be able to recognize your sinful nature, and repent.  Why we immerse, and don’t sprinkle.  We talked about the death of Christ, and why He had to die.  The whole Good News.

We sat around that table, talking.  The expression on his face moved from puzzled, to surprised, to shocked.

“Why,” he asked, irritated, “has no one ever bothered to tell me any of this?  I thought I was fine, and it turns out I wasn’t!”

We shook our heads.  “It’s all there in the Bible.  You know now, though.  Do you want to be baptized?”

He looked as us as if we were idiots.  “OF COURSE I DO!”

***

Planning his baptism took a lot of work.  His health was so delicate that he couldn’t even splash cold water on his face without getting palpitations.  They didn’t have a bathtub.  It took us a full two weeks to plan it, getting in touch with a local Church of Christ in their city, and coordinating with them to have a small pool full of warm water.

Jaime and Malli were out of town, so Mike and I packed up the kids early that day and headed down.  When we arrived, we found out that all of the daughters who were Christians were there to see their father baptized.

It turned out to be a very difficult task to pull off.  Winter temperatures in Chillán dip below 30°, and most people don’t have central heating.  They started in the afternoon, pouring hot water in with the icy water already in the pool to heat it.  The water cooled almost as quickly as they poured it, because the temperatures outside kept dropping.

We sang songs together, Mike gave the meditation.  We checked on the water every so often, but it was still always too cold.  “Fire from heaven is usually a sign of judgment,” I joked, “But maybe God can send us a little warmth from heaven.”

Finally we decided to go ahead with it, because the temperatures were dropping too quickly and we wouldn’t be able to warm it faster than the weather would cool it.  The water was lukewarm, and we all prayed it would be marginally warm enough to keep him safe.

So we did the baptism.

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When he came up out of the water, his family cheered.  He climbed out of the pool and went first to his wife.  He held her face in his hands and wiped away her tears.  Not a word passed between them, but the look he gave her spoke volumes.  I’m here.  You’ve prayed for so long, and I’m finally here.  I had a camera, but I couldn’t bring myself to take the picture.  Then the moment ended and he embraced her.

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***

Luisa, Nina’s sister, later told us what her father had said to her.  “You know, honey.  I know the water was too cold for me, but all I felt was warmth.”

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