I didn’t have running water last Monday.
“Really, China?” I thought, indignant. I hadn’t had a warm shower in weeks, and now this?
I was frustrated. Life in China has been especially challenging this semester. The water issue seemed like just another dirty plate in a never-ending pile of dishes overflowing from the sink. (Mind you, I usually do my dishes right away, so this pile was only figurative on the day of no water.)
The water finally came back around 7pm. Relieved, I went back about my day, quickly forgetting I had ever been missing water in the first place.
It wasn’t until Bible study two days later that I was reminded of my water problem in a way that also led me to consider water’s preciousness. Of course it is precious because it’s kiiinda sorta the basis of the fluids of all living organisms, sure. Our earthly bodies would weaken and die without it. (No biggie, right?)
More importantly, though, water is essential for the survival of our souls.
Along with God’s Word, water is used as a means of sanctification in the holy act of baptism. Instituted by God, this sacrament offers and gives the forgiveness of sins, spiritual life, and eternal salvation. People in my field have another name for it: washing. We use this term not only for security reasons, but also because baptism really is a washing of the soul, a cleansing from sin.
As I mentioned, it was during Wednesday study that I was compelled to think so critically about water. Our study was more reflective than topical that night, in fact. I chose for the group to read through 1 Peter 3:15-22. We read every verse in English and in Chinese, and then we spent about ten minutes in private meditation, personally taking note of any verses that jumped out at us and applying them to our own lives.
When I got to verse 21, do you know what I thought about?
Well, yes, I did think about that no good, literally temperamental, infuriatingly unreliable shower of mine.
I also thought about how, over the course of my entire life, I have consistently failed to uphold my pledge of a clear conscience toward God.
Peter tells us in verse 21 that, just as Noah and his family were saved through water, we are saved through the life-giving, dirt-removing water of baptism. We are washed clean and purified from sin, knowing that our Savior has already won the battle against darkness.
Yet we are human, and still manage to reintroduce the filth of sin into our hearts daily and all-too-willingly. Even the best works of a Christian are still blackened with sin. For our sake, Peter additionally tells us that baptism is not just a washing of sin, but a pledge. When we are baptized, we are making a joyful promise to set apart Christ as Lord every day. We are not to respect our Father only on the day of our baptism or when it is convenient for us. His life-giving water is always running; our cups overflow! We need only open our hearts and believe to receive it. This means fearing, loving, and trusting in God above all things, knowing that the gifts of His Word and sacraments are preparing us in righteousness for heaven.
And it doesn’t matter if you were baptized as a baby or as an adult. Some might ask how a baby can make a pledge when it can barely distinguish sounds. That’s where you come in, sponsors! Infants can believe through the power of the Holy Spirit, but they need our guidance and support to grow in faith. The same goes for those who are spiritually young. Yes, we must pledge to set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts, but we must also pledge to help this happen in the hearts of our Christian brothers and sisters. This is done through supporting and raising young Christians to love Jesus, and also by – you guessed it – baptism.
At the end of every study, I invite prayer requests from the group. I usually have to start things off with requests of my own before others tackle their shyness and chime in. That night, I prayed for added strength in my pledge of a clear conscience toward God. I prayed that God would give me a bold faith in proclaiming his love to those who do not know Him. There are, after all, many people in China who still don’t know the love of Jesus. That night, I prayed that our good, good Father would use me to benefit his kingdom and to guide more of his children to the baptismal font.
Following last Monday, a neighbor told me that I should expect the water to be shut off in my building at least once a week in the summer. It’s frustrating when our water or electricity or gas is out, sure. An inconvenience. These things are usually temporary. But Jesus is an endless and reliable source of living and renewing water.
Never mind how long I go without a warm shower or running water; I will never thirst, for I know that the water Christ gives us will become in us a “spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).