The Waters of the Eel

by Mabel Latsha, used by permission

As Anna and Melinda approached their home in the after-school hours, the front door suddenly flew open. There stood Kelly, all smiles eyes dancing with excitement. "Guess what?" she called out. "We're leaving for California next week!"

For a fleeting second such joyous news stopped the two girls in their tracks. It was the month of May. The previous September, Father, with his three daughters had moved from California to Colorado where he had accepted a teaching position. All through the school year the girls had felt a constant longing to go back to California. Now this announcement from Kelly seemed too good to be true.

Recovering from their first startled reaction, they rushed to Kelly's side. "Is it really true?" they asked hopefully yet unbelievingly.

"It's true!" Kelly assured them. "A letter arrived from Gridley today telling Daddy of a summer job opening there. Oh, how wonderful it will be to go back to California!"

Much excited chatter followed about the friends they would visit again, the places they would go, particularly in the northern part of the state, where they had spent some of the happiest days of their lives when Mother was still with them.

"We'll walk among the towering redwoods again," Kelly said enthusiastically.

"And visit all those interesting spots along the Eel River that we used to," Melinda added. "Only, things won't be the same without Mother."

At this point, remembering something of great importance to her, Anna exclaimed, "Oh, no! We can't leave next week we can't leave until after the following Sabbath. I must stay here for my baptism."

There was a decided sobering. Kelly was the first to speak. "That's right, Anna. But there's a problem involved. We have to be in Gridley on the Monday following that Sabbath so Daddy can meet his early morning appointment. We can't make it unless we leave this coming week."

Briefly Kelly and Anna looked questioningly into each other's eyes. Anna turned quickly and walked to the window, where she stood gazing out over the arid landscape that surrounded their Colorado home. However, she had not turned quickly enough to keep Kelly from detecting the mistiness in her eyes. Kelly hurried to Anna's side. Putting an arm about her she said sympathetically, "Anna, I know something of the disappointment you feel. Go ahead and cry. We'll understand."

Through quivering lips Anna bravely responded, "No, Kelly, I won't give in to tears. Mother always taught us to meet disappointments with faith and courage. It's just that this will be the second time my baptism has been postponed. Before Mother died she knew I wanted more than anything else to follow Jesus all the way. For that reason baptism means so much more to me."

Faithful to her mother's teaching, Anna accepted her disappointment bravely. Upon arrival in California she entered wholeheartedly into the pleasures awaiting the family. Outstanding among these was attending a special little church nestled among the redwoods. On this Sabbath, the Lord's Supper was being celebrated. In this congregation, before partaking of the Lord's Supper, the members practiced what is called "foot washing," a ceremony practiced by Jesus in John 13. Often this simple ceremony is reserved for those who have been baptized; thus during the foot washing ceremony, Melinda, who was still quite young, and Anna sat quietly to one side. Several of the regular members offered to take part with Anna, but always her reply was, "I'm not baptized yet."

One of the prominent ladies of the church, who was a close friend of the family, asked Anna, "Why haven't you been baptized? I know you love Jesus dearly and are living a sweet Christian life."

Anna resignedly responded, "I've wanted very much to be baptized. In fact I've attended two baptismal classes, but something always happens that keeps me from being present for the baptism. So I guess I'm supposed to wait a while longer."

"Well, why not be baptized today in the Eel River? I'll ask your father how he feels about it. If he agrees I'm sure the pastor could arrange it."

Soon after the morning service Anna stood on the sandy bank of the river beside the pastor as he questioned her concerning her faith and beliefs and her desire to follow Jesus.

With a glowing heart Anna stepped down into the flowing blue-green waters of the Eel River that was so dear to the entire family. On its opposite bank the wooded hillside descended to the edge of the water, forming an appealing background. In this setting Anna was lowered into the water, symbolizing the washing away of sins, and rose again with Jesus to bear witness of His saving grace, "being confident of this very thing, that he which. . . [had] begun a good work in. . . [her would] perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).

***

What is baptism? Why were Gilda and Anna so anxious to be baptized? Baptism is the symbol of the new-birth experience. It is the formal act of pledging our lives to the Lord from that day forward. As marriage marks the beginning of the union of two people, so baptism marks the beginning of this new-birth union between God and us.

Baptism is literally a Greek word "baptizo." In Greek it meant simply to immerse, or dip, in water. A correct translation of baptism would be "immersion." However, when the translators came to this word they realized that most of them had never been immersed, so they thought they had better not translate that word but leave it in the Greek just putting English letters to it.

Baptism literally means to dip under the water and it represents the death and burial of our old sinful nature, and the resurrection of a new life with the Holy Spirit in control. Baptism represents the new birth.

Romans 6:4: "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."

It does no good to be baptized unless we have actually had the new-birth experience it would be like a marriage ceremony without a partner, sort of meaningless. Anyone who has only been baptized as an infant has never really been baptized for it was a meaningless ceremony without the knowledge of the need for the new-birth experience and the death of the old sinful nature.

Jesus Himself, when He was of age, was baptized, not as a confession of guilt on His own account, but in order to identify Himself with sinners. He took the steps that we are to take in order to become His children. He has given us an example in life in submitting to the ordinance of baptism. He is our example in all things. Jesus is our pitying, loving Saviour who will receive those who come to Him just as they are, and depend on His righteousness. He died to redeem us and will bless us if we come to Him in meekness and sincerity. He will be found of them who seek Him with all their heart. We pray that as you continue to search the scriptures, you will find Jesus and seek to follow His example.

 

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