It was about seven years ago that I picked up running as an exercise. One summer in my early 20s while back home in Western Pennsylvania, I can recall running on a dusty dirt trail on an overcast and humid day. With cramps forming on my side and aches in my back, I found myself determined to push myself to do three miles before I would allow myself to quit.
But as I found myself ready to collapse, I started to feel a cool breeze run through my hair. Looking down onto the ground, I started to see drops of rain fall onto the hot dusty path. It was at that moment I stopped paying attention to my music and could hear the wind blowing through the trees followed by feeling drops of cold water seeping through my shirt as it cooled my sunburned skin.
But while the small random drops mystified me for a moment, they got bigger very quickly.
As I ran faster, the drops started to come down so fast they didn’t feel like raindrops at all, but like millions of needles falling onto me simultaneously. But for some reason, it didn’t hurt. And with the wind then blowing green leaves off of trees and across the trail, the rain began to run off the path and down the hill. At the same time, I felt I was dancing for an audience when I purposely splashed in puddles of water while a middle-aged jogger sat on a bench and laughed as I danced like Gene Kelly performing in film, “Singing in the Rain.”
For many of us, there is something about finding ourselves immersed in water that goes beyond merely being a symbolic act that reminds us of our baptism. For us, it’s the relinquishing our own doubts, the release of our own will and hesitations, and the feeling of water over our bodies that relinquish our soul that makes the act of baptism more than just a symbolic practice. But rather, an act of personal and spiritual renewal.
How often do we find ourselves feeling fatigued by constantly seeking to portray ourselves one way when in reality we are from it? How often do we find ourselves feeling loneliness when we live a life of people around us? How often do we feel guilty about our moral failures and those we’ve hurt and those we’ve let down such as our spouses, children, or siblings? And how do we find liberation from not only these feelings, but how do we find grace in our everyday lives?
“Once you have grace, you are free.” writes Thomas Merton. “When you are baptized, you will be free forever, because the strength will be given you, as much as you need, and as often as you ask, and as soon as you ask, and generally long before you ask for it, too.”
For us, it’s the symbolic act of our baptism whether it’s something we experienced when we were an infant or as an adult which reminds us of the new life we find. However, this symbolic act should not be seen as being only a one-time ceremonial act from our past. Rather, it should be seen as a symbolic act that takes place in our everyday lives in many different ways as a way to cleanse our spirit when we most need it.
Whether it’s being cleansed by the waters of rain or the spontaneous swim in the oceans let us truly celebrate this gift. Even if it’s by dancing in puddles.