Thinking about my baptism

a bit of a meditation by Byron O’Donnell, on his baptism on January 10, 2010

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here I sat, enjoying Jamie’s lighthearted remark about the tiny infant who was to be baptized in the same ceremony as me. “She has never had an unkind thought or uttered an unkind word to anyone.” Chuckling along with the congregation, I suddenly felt our whole pew stiffen as Jamie said “Byron, on the other hand…”  Our many conversations raced through my mind, somewhat akin to someone’s life flashing before their eyes. Why oh why did I ever open up to this man? I’m not sure what he actually said next, but it was fairly gentle, as is Jamie’s way.

Following his instructions we all went to the back of the sanctuary to wait for my close friend Larry Campbell, who was “giving me away”*  Friends gathered around and Jamie proceeded with the baptism. I find the text to be incredibly powerful and moving, a true endorsement of Christ and of the Christian life, and a corresponding total rejection of Satan and evil itself. I believe I would have wept if Larry hadn’t had that covered for us all. I reflected back to Larry weeping as he read my testament of love for my wife Cary during our wedding ceremony decades before. As I was responding incorrectly** to all of the questions I needed to answer, my eyes locked into the gaze of Maddie, the baby being baptized alongside of me. She seemed to understand that we were sharing something, and her curiosity was completely evident to me. The sixty years between us seemed to be a statement. We are never too young and never too old to make this pact with the heavenly Father. This child’s eyes shone with love and innocence, like the humble infant beginnings of our Saviour himself. Three times our gazes connected this same way, a trinity of communications which will stay at the forefront of my thoughts until my dying day.

This evening, back in my sprawling quarters at the Hotel Unusual in Dryden (whose motto is “Where friends don’t let good friends stay!”), I feel renewed in faith, filled with hope, and ready to love the whole world despite the charges that may entail. I am thankful to Jamie for his constant earnest encouragement to me…to Steve and Larry for their undying and unshakable friendship. I am especially thankful to my dear friend Andrew for standing up with me. Andy, you were an angel to me at a very bad time in my life and I say this… attend to this artful spiritual place and you will find peace. Lastly I am so thankful to have as my son William and his wonderful Brianna attend and watch me publicly commit myself to a Christian life.

Byron O’Donnell

*a note from the editor:  Larry, of course, was not “giving Byron away,” in the manner of an old-school father “giving away” his daughter at a wedding, but was standing in the role of sponsor to bear witness to this sacramental event.  If there was any “giving away” happening in this context, it happened long ago between noon and three one bleak Friday afternoon just outside of Jerusalem…

**a second note from the editior:  Your heart, though, was in the right place…

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