Baptism of Memories

Sunday, what a day! An approaching hurricane and we’re on the beach surfing and celebrating life, new life. The smell of the clean air being swept in by the storm, as the newly born bathe in the forgiveness and hope of a life never lived, yet.

Our two morning gatherings had been really fun. There was a sense of God’s presence during worship and at the end of sharing time. I was stoked, and humbled that with all that was going on in my life, and everyone’s life there, God would make His presence known to us. A perfect God dropping in on a group of very imperfect people. People hung around for over an hour after we were “officially” dismissed, and the conversations continued, as did prayer for God’s supernatural gifts to operate in our lives and small groups the way He always intended.

Grab some lunch quickly, and get to the beach; we have a baptism to do and some good waves, thanks to Ophelia. Funny. That has been my life. I rushed to the beach an hour before the baptism, paddled out to old and new friends. Lots of laughter, grins, and ripping. I guess this coming year will mark my 42nd year of a deep love affair with the ocean. She’s been quite a lady. I have scars on my body from her, and yet every one is a tattoo of love in my heart for her. She has given me some of the best times of my life. She has personalities. She can change in a moment, yet it just causes the mystery and love to grow. I digress…

Caught some fun surf. One wave tried to drop my board and me, hard, straight down. Survival and a belief that “you just don’t know ’till you go” caused me to commit to the drop, including all 9′-2″ of my board. Wow. She’s acting up today, showing me whose boss. Quick, grab the outside rail, pig-dog, lean in towards her, hug her, lay your head on her shoulders; the board comes around as if reeled in by a friend, you go from vertical failure to horizontal pleasure in a moment. Then you’re down the line wondering how you made that steep drop, and grinning all the way to the beach. Your friends are hooting and going off over you pulling it off. You paddle back out, and wish you could say, “Yeah, that’s from those 42 years of experience,” when you know she had mercy on you and decided to pull you close, give you a kiss on the cheek (instead of flushing you down the bowl!), and send you on your way satisfied and in amazement of her beauty, power, and benevolence, at least on this day.

But the best is to come. From the line-up (where surfers line up in the water to catch the waves) I can see people arriving for the baptism. I catch one more and ride to the beach. We had a good crowd show up, right at the surfing area (umm, wonder how that happened). I stood on the beach in front of the group of “candidates” (that’s kind of a weird description to me of those about to be baptized – I’d rather say, our new brothers and sisters). I talked to them about what was about to happen. I asked them for a public declaration of their faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. I also asked them to commit to be a part of a local fellowship wherever God may lead them in this world. The New Testament knows nothing of being a believer without being a committed part of a church.

Then we stepped into “her” embrace for the baptism. The water that has been a joy in my life for all these years; the water that took me to a place in 1971 where I would hear about Christ for the first time, became their “grave” and the “womb” from which they would be newly birthed, right there in front of the community I have been a part of for all of these years. 10 went under and came up. Another 4 or 5 weren’t there (surfers who went up north surfing on a Sunday – go figure!) and we’ll baptize them this weekend or next. One old friend was watching from the water and remarked to another old friend, “I wish I could be baptized.” My friend tried to get him to come up to me and ask, but he didn’t. No worries, I’ll see him next swell and I’ll offer.

There was lots of tears- more salty water, laughter, smiles and grins. What a great day. And all of it with my three families> my church family, including the newbie’s; my adult kids (one is my worship leader and a darn good surfer) and the surfing community I love. God is truly good!

About Tim Holt

Founding pastor of Seacoast Vineyard Church, Myrtle Beach, SC. Retired January 2021. Pastor to surfers, friends, pastors, etc.
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