“And this is the marvel of marvels, that He called me Beloved.” (C.S. Lewis)
The warm sun is shining, and there is not a cloud in the sky. I wear a white robe, and I am standing in chest-deep water. It is the perfect temperature—comfortable and refreshing at the same time.
I have been following John for awhile, and his message of repentance resonates deep in my heart. I wonder how I can apply his words—“Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight his paths.”—to my own life.
John has been baptizing people in the Jordan River, and I have seen the impact it has had on their lives. And yet, John keeps saying that someone is coming after him who is mightier and who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Whatever that means, I believe him. He is holy, honest, and passionate.
Today is my day to be baptized—along with many others. As John places his hand on my head and speaks his words of repentance with conviction, I go under the water. I feel abundant peace in my heart, and I feel so grateful that God has brought me to this place and to these people. I don’t understand everything, but I know it is good and true.
My head is still dripping with water, and I look around at the others who have just been baptized or who are waiting for their turn. My eyes stop on one man whose turn is coming up. I think I heard someone say that his name is Jesus. It suits him perfectly. He doesn’t say a word, but he captivates me, draws me in with his peaceful presence. What is it about this man named Jesus?
He comes before John, and John’s entire countenance changes. John always has this amazing reverence for the other, but his reverence for Jesus increases exponentially. The two seem to know each other well, and John lovingly embraces Jesus. He prays over him, as Jesus goes under the water. Jesus comes up, and suddenly, the clear skies become even clearer. Is that possible? And the brightness coming from above is like nothing I’ve seen before. A great light shines on Jesus. It is a warm light that draws my heart closer to Him, even though I physically don’t move a muscle. I hear a voice, so strong and so gentle:
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)
I can’t believe I am witnessing this miracle. I feel so privileged, so honored, like I’ve been invited to some royal event. My eyes remain on Jesus. Could he be the one John has been talking about? The one mightier than he? Maybe, but he responds to this voice with such humility and receptivity. It’s almost as if he is in prayer or conversation with this voice coming from the sky. If that is true, is this the voice of God?
I wish Someone would speak words like that to me. I wish God would call me beloved and be pleased with me. As longing for that kind of love blooms within my heart, I can’t help but grow in hopeful expectation. Perhaps since I am standing so close to Jesus, here in the water, maybe God’s loving gaze will find me, too. And perhaps if I follow Jesus out of this water, wherever He is going, maybe His Father will notice me and my proximity to His Son and be pleased with me, too. Maybe He will even adopt me as His beloved daughter.
So many questions flood my mind, and yet my heart knows without a doubt that I need to follow Jesus. The love that I feel between Jesus and this voice and the reverence that John shows Jesus convict me. I don’t need to fully understand. I just need to trust with the gift of faith.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus says, “Let the children come to me” (Matthew 19:14). Since Jesus is the perfect image of God the Father, we can believe that our Heavenly Father is, indeed, saying to us, “Come to me, my daughter.” And just as we can imagine Jesus’ face lighting up when those children came to Him, we can be confident that God’s face lights up when we go to Him, too.
In baptism, God adopts us into His family. We become His sons and daughters. And that longing for Someone to say to me, “You are my beloved daughter; with you I am well pleased” is indeed a longing that God placed on my heart and is fulfilled in Christ Jesus:
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:14-17)