One of the things that I have grown to accept while raising little kids is that no matter how hard you try, their mess will inevitably get on you.
Not that long ago, while getting our family in the car for church, I sat in the driver's seat to turn on the car. As I put the key into the ignition, I noticed a huge white toothpaste smudge on my black jeans.
During the commotion of getting the kids out the door, our three-year-old ran up and gave me an impromptu hug right after she finished brushing her teeth. The height of her head is exactly between my knee and waist and rather than using a towel to wipe the foamy toothpaste off her mouth she decided to use my jeans instead.
This is the life of a parent. There is no sense in trying to avoid it or getting upset when it happens. Rather, it's better to simply accept it and move on.
Earlier this year we had a baptism Sunday at our church. I love baptism Sundays. I love listening to the transforming stories and testimonies of those being baptized. I love the physicality of an individual getting fully submersed and the vivid imagery of what it represents. As a pastor, baptizing people is one of my favorite things to do.
When introducing baptisms I often say that baptism is a physical and outward representation of a spiritual and inward reality. Meaning, going under the water symbolizes our identification with the death of Jesus Christ, as well as being washed and cleansed from our sin. Coming up out of the water symbolizes our identification with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Meaning that NOW we have been raised with Christ to newness of life (Rom. 6:1-14).
Not only does baptism represent a spiritual reality, it also represents a relational reality. We often focus on what baptism represents for the person who is getting baptized (i.e. the paragraph above). However, an individual can't get baptized unless there is someone who can baptize them. Baptism reminds us that the Christian life was never meant to be lived alone. You can't be a Christian living an autonomous individualistic life. Being a follower of Jesus necessitates that you are living in community. Sometimes we avoid community, because community is messy.
In the same way that parenting is a "literal" messy endeavor, baptism represents that life in community is as well. When baptizing people, you are bound to get wet. There is no way not to get wet. By the end of the morning, after having baptized 7-8 people, I'm almost as wet as if I'd simply jumped in the water myself. (For context, we baptize people in a big horse trough and I stand right outside it.) So, rather than resist it, you might as well embrace it.
Therefore, for those doing and watching baptisms, it's a reminder that as you walk closely with people through life, their journey (i.e. - their mess) is bound to get on you. Avoiding walking with people through life may be easier and a bit more neat and tidy, but it lacks a richness and depth that can only be found in sharing life together.
As I sit in my living room while writing this post, I'm noticing that pillows from the couch are all over the place. There are puzzle pieces and toys all over our coffee table, on the floor, and under my feet. I can see crumbs on the dining room table left behind in the seats of our kids from dinner. There are days I feel like I'm living in one big perpetual mess. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
In walking with people through different seasons of their spiritual journey, I've experienced lots of heartache and pain. But, at the same time, I've also had a front row seat to a lot of redemption, transformation, and incredible spiritual growth.
So, don't be afraid of the mess. Don't be afraid of their journey getting on you. If you're truly following Jesus, it's inevitable. Embrace it. And expect to be surprised and amazed along the way.