When was I baptized? When did my new identity hit me like the shocking sting of cold water to the lungs after a deep plunge? When did I come up gasping for air noticing everything around me looked different – brighter, truer? When did my identification with Christ recalibrate my compass, change my direction in this world?
It wasn’t when I was sprinkled as an infant in the secure arms of my mother. It wasn’t when I was dunked into the Pacific Ocean – because I wasn’t ever dunked. It’s as if I never was truly baptized at all.
I felt baptized the first time I read Walter Brueggemann’s The Land and Prophetic Imagination. Biblical truth so heavy I emerged with spirited levity. Scales melted off my eyes and I saw the text in Technicolor, my grayed life in want of such saturated color. I started living an alternative life, one with imagination, with the voice of the prophets ringing in my ears.
I felt baptized when I voted for Barack Obama, unapologetically voting my theology. I wanted to live in a world with less war, less hatred, less savage individualism that ignored the poor. I wanted a person of peace who’d advocate for solidarity and listen to the voices from the margins. My vote was a break from my former affiliation based on an emerging theological shift and it felt new and good.
I felt baptized on the bus ride to Bubanza, surrounded by Batwa students all chatting with youthful pitch and excitement. Careening away from the city I knew I was seeing those invisible to the world outside, my baptism of tears revealed my part in their story. I sensed ubuntu, our futures tethered together. The trajectory of my life would change because of them, for them.
I felt baptized as I read her words, hot tears gutting my cheeks. I finally said it – I am a writer. The entire week the mantra tingled on my lips, each vocalization claiming my new identity and the responsibility it entailed. I refused to hide anymore, I committed to write what I see, what I think and how I feel in God’s world.