The Baptism

The morning air still felt moist from the night's chill. The sun would soon dry the dew and dehumidify the air, so she enjoyed the barefoot moment in the wet grass. The sky was just now turning shades of pink and orange, cueing the thousands of birds like a conductor's baton. Their voices warming, the planet warming, her heart -- still cold.

Normally, she would have thrilled at all this beauty reaching out to her.

But she was feeling a great sense of loss. She didn't know why her best friend seemed so distant -- gone all the time. She was hurt. And she was angry.

They used to spend every moment together. Fetching water from the well. Pounding dough. Singing with the birds. Neighbors, about the same age, with similar family status -- they could spend most of their waking hours together and not inconvenience anyone.

But it had been a few weeks since their last blissful day together. Anna hadn't a clue where Lila had disappeared to. She had caught a glimpse of her golden hair at the market the other day, but just as she realized who it might be, the girl was gone.

So, she tried to enjoy the bird chorus and the cool morning, but she was thinking of friendship lost and wandering around sort-of aimlessly, unaware of time passing.

Her home wasn't too far from the river and she found herself heading in that direction. It wasn't long before she realized things were different this morning.

She could hear the murmur of a crowd, in the distance. She hurried her steps and coming over a little rise saw a huge throng of people gathered on the banks of the river. They were all watching somebody -- he was in the deepest waters, talking so loudly, with confidence. He was baptizing people!

She stopped and watched as people, young and old, waded out to him, smiling, allowing him to lower them into rushing water and raise them up again. One after another -- then a pause while he exhorted and prodded the crowd.

"Change your life. God's kingdom is here." Matthew 3:2 The Message

It was then that she saw her friend. Lila was seated on the riverbank, listening wholeheartedly, watching as people committed themselves to the watery experience.
Lila had been baptized a few days earlier and now more than ever wanted to be near this teacher, drinking in his words like they were rich wine. She had no desire to go back to everyday life activities, she only wished her friend Anna would come. She had tried to find her, talk to her, invite her to the river, but it was late when she would return home after a day of prophet-talk and Anna wasn't usually  out in her courtyard anymore.

In some ways she wanted to keep him all to herself. No one else could possibly understand how he made her feel anyway.

This day felt even more electric. She felt like something amazing was going to happen -- she kept looking around with expectation. Others seemed to feel the energy too. The crowd was noisy, moving around like a water molecule about to change into steam.

And then she saw Him. Everyone saw Him. There was a hush.

John had just finished talking about the One who was to come:

"I'm baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I'm a mere stagehand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out." Matthew 3:11 The Message

And now here He was. She knew it was Him -- it was His demeanor, His eyes. There wasn't a bit of doubt in her mind. She wanted to go over and hug Him. But he was heading down into the water.

The crowd inhaled, as a unit, then held their breath. They watched as He spoke quietly to John and John exclaimed, "I'm the one who needs to be baptized, not you!"

But Jesus insisted. And John did what was asked of him. And the dove descended. And the Father spoke words of affirmation.

Tears in her eyes, she looked around her, smiling. These riverbank people were family to her now, they had all shared in the most beautiful moment in history. Water-cleansed and sin-forgiven, now Son-watchers.

As Jesus, dripping, made His way out of the river, the crowd began to disperse, many following Him, some staying behind. Lila looked about her, then spotted her friend watching, way up on the hillside. She waved. Their eyes met.

And understanding seemed to travel between them instantly. Hurt feelings made aware, reasons understood.
Lila mouthed -- "we need to talk".

And they would.