They called it “El cajon” (kaa-hone). It was the swimming hole (box) in a river on the north side of town. We didn’t go there very often, so I didn’t learn to swim. And, it’s very possible that my fear of “deep” water originates in one of the river’s pools.
With Dad’s encouragement, I decided to do some rock jumping: I, a skinny second-grader who didn’t know how to swim, jumping off an overhanging rock into water where I couldn’t touch the bottom. Needless to say, I was surprised. Nothing in my previous experiences prepared me for the plunge. The weight of my little body sunk me much deeper than I had anticipated. The amount of time it took me to resurface felt like an eternity, also much longer than I had anticipated. The white of churned water and the blue-green of the sky seen from below the surface form one of the most vivid mind pictures of my childhood. When I finally emerged, it was with a panicked thrashing. My life, I was sure, hung in the balance.
So, water has never been my friend. I’m fine with a life-vest. I’m fine as long as I can touch bottom. Recently, I discovered I’m also fine if it’s ocean salt water and I’m snorkeling. I failed beginner swimming when I was in 10 grade because I could not float on my back without kicking my feet. I can swim the length of a pool if I force myself to do it, but I gulp air instead of breathe because I panic as soon as the bottom drops out from under me.
But (I love the but’s of Scripture) there is one water I love. It is the water of baptism. It is in those waters that God met me, that God allowed me to participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Because of my sin, I must die. God made provision for my death through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and it is in drowning in the waters of baptism that He allows me to find life. ‘Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.’