There was a story that was passed around for years at a church where I used to serve. It was told about our pastor, who was short of stature and didn’t really enjoy the physical part of baptizing people. Oh, he loved it when people took their next step of faith in being obedient to the commands of Christ. But to him, baptizing a person of normal size was as akin to asking one of the Seven Dwarfs to baptize a seven-foot pro basketball player. It could be done, but it was never pretty. He did a lot of side-stepping on the way down, and he almost had to get underneath the person to push them back up. As a result, he often asked me to baptize in his place.
One day, a salesman came to our pastor’s office with a device he called a “baptismal board.” It looked like a spread out “V” lying on its side with a seat halfway down and a spring in between. A pastor could have the person sit on the seat and then take them under the water so they would be laid out on the board. The pastor would then push the board down while compressing the spring and gently raise the person back up above the surface of the water.
One day, another pastor asked to borrow the baptismal board for a Sunday-night service. He had two candidates ready to be baptized: One was a little boy, and the other was a six-foot-seven, 230-pound state highway patrolman. Something must have gone wrong, because that Monday, when our pastor came to the church at six in the morning, there, sitting on the steps, was one baptismal board.
Later, I found out what had happened. When the borrow-ee went to baptize the young boy, as the pastor let go of the board, the boy shot out of the water and almost to the dressing room. If you had blinked, you would have missed the entire thing. The people who had come to see this young boy being baptized were stunned for a second, trying to figure out just what happened. Then they started laughing – uncontrollable, on-the-floor laughter. While someone was checking to make sure the boy hadn’t been injured, the pastor was trying to get control of the situation, reminding everyone that “this is the house of the Lord” and “baptism is a serious ordinance.”
The crowd settled down, and the time had now come for the six-foot-seven-inch man to be baptized. The pastor spoke the customary words, “I baptize you, my brother …” and sat him on the baptismal board, laid him back, pushed the board down and stood back up – alone. No other man was in sight.
Somehow, the board hadn’t been set right for the man’s weight. As the pastor stood there alone, he realized something had gone wrong. And he wasn’t the only one. The man lying on the bottom of the baptistry with his arms folded across his chest also realized something had gone wrong. Panicking, he began flailing his arms, trying to find the edge of the baptistry so he could pull himself up. The flailing caused the water to come out of the baptistry and onto the senior adult choir members sitting below.
Finally, the man found the edge of the baptistry and began pulling himself up. To his horror, he saw the pastor in mid-air, diving toward him. Somewhere above the water line, the two bodies collided, falling back into the baptistry and creating the first-known baptismal tidal wave. It hit the back wall first and then came pouring out over the edge, straight onto the senior adult choir. Their choir robes drenched, the balding men and purple-haired women looked as though they had just stepped out of the shower. And the congregation? They were hysterical. This baptismal service was like watching Crocodile Dundee wrestle an alligator, and the alligator had won. Finally, the pastor and the highway patrolman stood up, drenched, and the pastor made an announcement: “Church dismissed.”
As you face next year, know that there will be days when everything goes wrong. When I was pastoring an African-American congregation, the older and wiser men had some words for me when I was having a bad day: “We just talked to the Holy Trinity this morning about you, and they haven’t called an emergency meeting over your life yet.”
God knows what the future is going to bring, He won’t let you walk alone; He won’t give you more than you can handle and He has a purpose for it all. Just remember: “The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad” (Ps. 118:24).