As I was writing my post from this past Wednesday, all that reminiscing put me in mind of the afternoon Elaine got baptized. There is a little state park where the Mokelumne River meanders through in California, and that’s where church members and assorted others drove on a warm summer day in July.
We sang songs on the shore in the glow of the afternoon sun, graced by the slanting shadows of the trees and listened to Pastor Ken’s short message as he stood thigh deep in the water with his big black Bible opened, as the faithful waded in.
Elaine’s folks were there wandering around not sure what to do, clearly out of their comfort zone but there nonetheless and that’s what mattered. Her Mom couldn’t imagine why anyone in their right mind would get “in that nasty dirty water.”
Baptism never fails to move me, especially when adults take that step. You can almost see all the junk in their lives in past tense in their eyes right before they go under. They’ve made the decision and they have counted the cost and put themselves in a pretty vulnerable place. On top of that, everyone else is standing around dry and you are about to get soaking wet in public with clothes on. That seems a bit unnatural all by itself.
The day of her baptism I gave her a little Bible inscribed with the date and her name. And when her truck was stolen a few years ago she was more upset about losing that than anything else.
That little Bible represented a lot.
She likes to rib me about being baptised in a warm baptismal where my Pastor wore fishing waders. She thinks hers is somehow better because that’s the way John the Baptist did it and also because she braved the cold water. He is her favorite Bible character after all.
But when she gets serious and talks about that day you don’t have to wonder about what it meant and still means to her. She gets a certain light in her eyes and a softness in her voice. It was the starting of a life newly filled with hope. Filled with Jesus.
But I digress.
It was getting dark by the time we headed home. I was driving her 1990 Dodge Caravan. She was riding shotgun and my Mom and Dad were in the back. Suddenly I see something that almost looked like a very tall person lying crossways in the lane directly ahead of me. It was, in fact, a large roll of carpet.
With traffic on both sides zooming by there was absolutely nowhere to go.
She must have seen the panic on my face and the desire to slam on the brakes. “Hang onto the wheel and keep going!” She said. So I did. I gripped the wheel and sailed over it. In the rear view mirror I saw my Mom and Dad’s heads pop up simultaneously and hit the ceiling.
Now the carpet was caught in the undercarriage of the van and we were dragging it.
And no one would let me off the freeway.
Elaine said, “Just put your blinker on and get over, they’ll move.” I did and they did.
By the time we pulled off the freeway the carpet was smoldering and we could see flames. Now, my friend is one of those who can assess a situation and know exactly what needs to be done, as well as successfully delegating others, all while remaining calm and in control. Unlike me.
In seconds she had my Dad in the driver’s seat waiting for direction as to when to hit the gas and my Mom and I bouncing the backend of the car while she kept a firm hold on the carpet.
When we finally dislodged it my Dad said, “I can’t believe I just obeyed those orders without question, I’m a Master Sergeant, I am used to giving orders not taking them.”
We all took a few deep breaths, thanked God, and stood around for a few minutes and marveled at how disastrous it could have been.
But I know why it wasn’t.
It was those hood angels riding on top of the van.
photo credit: google images, Caswell State Park