I often write during a slow market day. I wrote this during a slow, rainy Wednesday market as we awaited the arrival of Hurricane Florence.
2018 has been an incredibly wet year. We are well above the normal yearly rainfall here in Central Virginia. I can’t find the exact numbers, but the little creek that runs the front of our property is usually dry this time of year. It has not dried out at all. As I write this Hurricane Florence is barreling toward the East Coast. North Carolina, which has already had as much rain as we have, is poised to experience catastrophic flooding. We won’t get the worst of it here, but even a few inches is more than we need at this point.
I remember in May standing around with other farmers complaining about the rain, as farmers are wont to do. It rained almost the whole month of May and none of us could get in our fields. Everyone’s plantings were delayed. We joked, almost hopefully, about how we’d all be standing around complaining about the drought come August. Instead, August brought what seemed like monsoons. One rain event dumped 4 inches in a half-hour on my field. Paired with the usual August humidity, that meant plant diseases were out of control. And the bugs! I don’t even want to talk about the bugs.
Farming is hard and every season, every year brings its own unique challenges. So I accepted the losses of summer crops and set my mind and heart on a bountiful fall. And now, Hurricane Florence. The tiny fall seedlings might survive a few inches, but any more may be season-ending. Mid-September is just not enough time to replant before the first frost.
I’ve been reflecting on water, such an essential substance, immense in its capacity to both give and take life. While we in the southeast stare down impending floods, California is being ravaged by wildfires. What they would give for even a fraction of our rain. I hate to curse the rain, because I know I will curse the drought in equal or greater measure.
Baptism, at least in the mainline, non-Baptist traditions, has lost a sense of the power that water has. An almost benign ritual, with vows hardly any parent or individual takes seriously. Yet the waters of baptism are meant to symbolize our entering the tomb with Christ and as we emerge becoming new with Christ’s resurrection. Not benign at all.
We, humans, have a propensity for building our homes and lives in the most volatile places on earth – coasts, river basins, lakeshores, deserts, mountains, fault lines, volcano valleys. Gorgeous, dangerous places. We curse the disasters when they come, the natural patterns of the places where we choose to live. Nature’s way to cleanse the land and allow new life to emerge. New plants thrive in the wake of wildfires. Floodwaters bring nutrients to the land. Hurricanes reshape the coast allowing new species to thrive. The death and destruction lead to new life.
What would it mean if we took baptism more seriously? If we acknowledged the life-altering power that the water holds? What would it mean as a parent to give your child over to this truth that we must move through death to find life? Baptism is to be claimed in the family of God, yet entering the family of God is entering into a world where everything is turned upside down – last becomes first, leader becomes servant, our king is crucified, death leads to life. Much more like a natural disaster than our benign ritual suggests. As a parent, it scares me a bit to offer my child to this world. But just like the coastlines and fault lines, entering into the family of God brings beauty and wonder and joy beyond measure. Life that eclipses the floodwaters through which we must wade.
Florence brought almost 5 inches of rain followed by another 5+ from Hurricane Matthew. The rain just kept coming. 2018 ended up being the wettest year ever recorded for our area. As I begin preparing for the 2019 season some areas of the farm have still not dried out. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to plant in my biggest section because there are still puddles and nowhere for the water to drain. I just found out a friend has decided he can’t farm this year because his field is still underwater. Meanwhile, I struggle to find hay to buy for my animals. 2018 was a disastrous year for haymaking. So, when I found this reflection, now still struggling with the effects of last year’s rain, I couldn’t help but wonder and worry about what this year will bring. And yet, I hold on to the hope that amid the floodwaters I will find beauty and wonder and joy.