Remember the picture from the park? The underwater park? I was drawn to that park to see it for a reason, and I had a vision, God inspired I feel. The vision was to do something that would help me remember something else. Here, first, is that something else, and than I will tell you the story of the journey I took to remember it.
A reader of my Argentina journal will find that in 1998, on a Thursday, a very brief mention of finding “other places that were much deeper” in the flood waters north of Buenos Aires. That small note in my journal was my baptism. At the time, I found it to be important, but it wouldn’t be until much longer would I realize it’s importance. Although, my parents had me “baptized” when I was much younger, it meant little, or maybe even, nothing to me. It was something that got done, and that was all. I think they did a fairly good job of explaining what it was to me and making sure I understood what it meant before I did it, but I don’t think I really understood or took seriously what it was I was agreeing to. I agreed to something I should have understood ahead of time, my real baptism would be something I didn’t agree to that I wouldn’t understand until after.
In Argentina, I was hauling a family’s belongings through ankle and occationally knee deep flood water from a neighborhood to the back of a pickup truck parked, what seemed like, a very long way away. As I walked, on what I think was my last trip from the house to the truck, I found a very deep hole. The water was muddy and dark, I found it by falling into it. In my mid-teenager mind I had the presence to lift up the box in my hands over my head. I slipped into the water, it touched the elbows of my raised arms. My eyes were open, I could see light pass through the muddy water swirling in front of me. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t find footing. Eerily calm though, I determined that I would die right there, I knew in my heart that it was my death. I resolved myself unto the Great Beyond. I raised my foot up one last time, and it found perfect purchase. I pushed and I was up. Gasping for air, I had saved whatever was in that box. People from a porch nearby were laughing at me, as I sputtered for breath.
This was my baptism. This was my death, and rebirth. This began my service to God. I didn’t start any service for a long time, but God put me on my path, there were things I had to learn and things I had to do and things I had to see before I would be ready to start. This would set the pace and the tone for my life. If I could save the least of things, or the least of a person, I had to, I must. God keeps me alive so I can do his work, and when it’s done, I’ll resolve myself unto my death, but until than I’m a servant to him and to those around me. Some things I do are selfish, and maybe the things I do are focused on something so specific that I might ignore other things, but I work for the good of others.
My story for tonight was much more physically painful, but it was important. It reminded me of what was, and taught me old lessons, and opened my eyes to some of the subtle ways of God. Around 11pm, after work, I stripped off my shirts and my boots, and put on old pants. I stepped out into the January night. It was raining. I walked through the neighborhood towards the park. The cool, wet grass under my feet felt good, the air wasn’t too cold, but definately not warm. At the edge of the park, appropriately named Edge St., I looked down on the park, partially lit by the lights from the bridge. Still a lake. I walked through the high grass, bent down from the weight of the past few days of rain. Mostly naked, I walked down the slope towards the water’s edge. What lay before my feet was barely visible, and it was only a matter of time before I found a patch of thorns, that tore at my feet and pants, and hands. I endured the thorns in my hands to pick myself out of it and back up. Once, I was free, I circumvented the thorns and hopped a fence. The edge of the water was right at my toes. Was I ready?
My right foot went in first. Cold, real cold, but I’ve been in worse, just not for as long as I think I’d be in this. Now, both feet, ankles, shins… The water wasn’t as deep as I thought it was from the road. This was disappointing, to be honost. I sludged across a open space, I couldn’t remember what had been there before the water covered it, but it felt like a mix between short grass and light gravel. I found the road, which was slightly deeper and completely muddy, with sharper rocks. I found soft grass under my feet, and it was a relief. My toes, and most of my feet, by this part were screaming in pain from the cold. Being knee deep in flood water in January near midnight is a retarded idea for anyone. It’s not the first time I’ve been in winter water though, maybe I’ll talk about that later.
I walked and walked and walked through this cold water, sometimes it was deep, sometimes shallow, until I came to a depression in the ground. This was the spot, I knew it, but I walked on. There was a patch of grass sticking up over the water that I decided to stop on and rest for a moment. I shouldn’t have pressed on. The grass let my feet warm, and they hurt more. On the way back, the soft grass that was a comfort on the way there, became sharp blades of glass, hurting my feet every step. I found that spot again. The depression. This spot is why I came down here. I knew it the first time I found it, and I found it again without even trying. This is where I would do what I had to in order to remember. It was deeper than everywhere else, just under my waist. It was so far out that if the worst happened, I’d be too far away for anyone to see me or find me. I was in God’s hands.
I spread my arms out, the drizzle that fell on my bare skin I couldn’t even feel from the cold. I shivered. I couldn’t do it. I knew what could happen. Cold shock, my heart could stop, I could involuntarily gasp and suck in a lungful of bitter cold lung water, I could go into cold shock. I put my arms down at my sides, not yet defeated, but dishearted. I stilled my soul and my mind. I crossed my arms over my chest, and leaned back. I think I screamed.
I came up from the bitter cold water. My mouth opening and closing, but I don’t think any sound was coming out. I lurched forward, keeping moving. I vomitted. My arms started shaking, great, shock. Mild shock, and a good five minute walk from the street. This is when doubt of my actions starts to really sink in. I think, this is not God inspired at all, I’m a giant retard, I’m going to die, half naked and alone. I felt a warmth in me, that reassured me to have faith. I walked on. The incline to the road was muddy and the water was littered with debris. What worried me wasn’t the stuff that was floating, but the stuff that wasn’t. My second biggest concern for this ordeal, after the cold, was stepping in glass. I’m barefoot in a neighborhood with more bars than churches. I reached the road, with my feet no more cut up than before I found that part of the road. As I shambled down my road towards my house, three cars went by. Atleast three people, that drove past a shirtless, shoeless, wet person walking at night in January. Would I have stopped? I found it a bit disheartening that no one stopped and atleast rolled down the window to ask if I was alright. I walked with my head high, if I had walked hunched over, maybe it would have been a diffrent story.
At home, I stripped off my wet pants, and shivered in my room, naked, until the bathroom opened up. The shower was relief and pain. Frostbite shouldn’t be treated with hot water, as anyone who knows two things about frostbite would tell you. It has to be treated with cold water first, than warm, and than once the flesh is at a decent temperature, hot. The water was too warm, and my feet hurt a lot, I couldn’t turn it higher or I would have tissue damage. My feet still hurt as I type this, but I live, and I learned. I listened. I lived. I have faith. I have hope.