Back in the early 1990s, the USS Guam was one of the ships sent toward the war breaking out in the Persian Gulf region at the time. As the ship traveled in that direction, and while staring death in the face, a number of men on board wanted to square their lives with God through professing faith and baptism. In the midst of this leading of the spirit, the chaplains on board faced a sort of mini crisis if you will. Where in the world could they baptize all of these men? Ironically, the answer came from one of the most unlikely sources.
Because the threat of death was so great, the ship was not only carrying men and provisions, it was also carrying numerous rudimentary caskets in which to bring home the dead. Herein is where the answer to the chaplains’ dilemma was found. Because there was no baptismal pool on board, they simply filled some of the caskets with water, asked the soldiers to sit down in them and leaned these new believers backwards while immersing them in the water and welcoming them as new children of God. On the one hand, it was one of the strangest of all baptisms, but at the same time, it also provided one of the most vivid and perfect symbols of faith.
After all, following God is almost always a strange mixture of life and death.
Think about it for a moment. As we march toward Easter we do so recognizing that the death of Jesus ushered in the possibility of life in a new and profound way. And, the same is true for us in countless ways each and every day as followers in the Jesus’ way. For it is when we die to self, to pride, to arrogance, to our schedules and to our own plans for our lives that we discover the ways of God. These are not ways that make our lives miserable. No, to the contrary, they are the way to life and life that is abundant.
Yes, sometimes a good life requires a good death. I know it sounds like a strange thing to say, but, that doesn’t make it any less true…