This Sunday is Baptism Sunday, and you have the day off from your usual responsibilities of playing piano and singing, and across three services over 30 people are baptized, but in the service you and your wife attend, there are at least 10, yet you lose precise count because watching baptisms always moves you, especially that moment when the pastor or leader asks the candidate brief questions (“Have you decided to follow Jesus? Do you trust in Him alone for your salvation?”) to which the candidate responds yes, and as the candidate sits in the large trough at the front of your church, or in the swimming pool your church rents out once a year, you feel that catch in your throat as you hear the words, “I baptize you my brother/sister in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” and you see the joy on those wet faces as they rise out of the water–baptism a picture of the death and resurrection of Jesus–and what gets you most is when kids are baptized, or as on this Sunday, a mother and then her son, and you can’t help but consider your own son, who is 6, who has declared that he wants to follow Jesus, that he is interested in baptism, but you and your wife have discussed this, agreeing not to pressure him or rush him, and you find yourself in the service imagining your son at the front, you leaving your usual spot behind the piano to sit with your wife as you hear him answer in the affirmative to those questions, hear him answer the prayers you’ve prayed over him since even before he was born, knowing there’s no way you’ll be able to keep from crying, that when you return to the piano, your face will be blotchy, that you will find it hard to sing, and even as others are being baptized this Sunday, you find yourself thinking of your daughter, who is 3, and just the imagining is getting at you, and you imagine the applause at that future time, just like the applause of this Sunday, and there will be joy overwhelming you, and you know that joy in Christ is a sentence that stretches beyond the limits of what seems possible yet maintains the principles of usage yet unlike a sentence, which always ends in a period, a question mark, or an exclamation point, this joy will continue, even if its intensity varies across the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and, years, until it will substitute a colon for life’s supposed terminal mark of punctuation because what follows that a colon is what receives emphasis, and what will follow is that which the sentence has been moving towards with all of these words, these phrases, these clauses: unending communion with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God.
I’m a poet, fiction writer, and essayist. My chapbook, Four Seasons West of the 95th Meridian, was published by Spoon River Poetry Press (2014). My work has appeared in Christianity and Literature, Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland, Blast Furnace, Driftwood Press, Whitefish Review, The Cresset, Midwestern Gothic, and South Dakota Review, among others. I currently serve as an assistant professor of English & Creative Writing at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas. I also edit Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature and direct the annual Windhover Writers’ Festival. When not writing or teaching, I run, read, play piano, listen to music, and play disc golf. My greatest joys are my wife, my son, and my daughter. I was born in southern Minnesota, but while growing up, I had little interest in the Plains and opens spaces. A stint at a rural state liberal arts college in southwestern Minnesota, as well as grad-school stints in northwestern Minnesota and southeastern South Dakota, altered my interests. @plainswriter, plainswriter.com, & www.facebook.com/plainswriterAll posts by Nathaniel Lee Hansen