Have you ever considered your life, at whatever age you find yourself now, as a well-watered life? Paul certainly conceives of the Christian life in this way in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” He uses the metaphor of the watered, growing plant to convey the nature of Christian discipleship. A life well-watered is a life lived by faith in the Triune God who causes our growth into being daughters and sons of God.
Throughout the entirety of one’s life the hope is that we can see, at the end, that it was well-watered. And that watering begins in the baptismal pool. This is why Paul Galbreath says in his final chapter of Leading through the Water, “The baptismal waters trace across the arc of our lives to mark us as God’s own” (113). It is a beautiful image. Your baptismal waters trace across the arc of your entire life. That tracing that threads throughout your life begins at baptism—in the catechumenate—and ends at the completion of your baptism, in your final death and resurrection.
The images of baptism—such as death and resurrection, new birth, sealing in the Spirit—are the stencils that trace the baptismal waters across our lives. Every time you see those images in your life of faith you return to their source: the ritual act of God in baptism. Part of God’s act is to bring the sinful human to new birth (John 3), linking baptism to the Creator who is in His Son re-creating and renewing all things: including you, the baptized. God gives life through the mothers that bear us and He rebirths our lives through the womb of the baptismal font. God not only is our spiritual Father, but also is like our ideal spiritual mother, nurturing us throughout life from the baptismal font to the eschatological end.
Just as He nurtures us, he nurtures all waters and all of creation. Through baptism God invites us to care for these waters He created. In Galbreath’s words, “The water we use in baptism is a part of the water in the world around us. As we pass through this water, we take our place in caring for the world around us.” And for the water around us, too. We desire for all to have access to clean, drinkable water because we are washed at the font in the waters of the earth that God created. Thus Galbreath invokes as a model the pastor who invites his assembly, when visiting other places with other bodies of water, to bring water back from those places and pour it into the font, linking the assembly in its baptisms to all the earth’s waters.
The comprehensive nature of baptism is apparent. It is as Galbreath indicates “a lifelong journey of call, discernment, and service” (119). It was a lifelong journey for Jesus from His baptism to his death and resurrection and so it is for those invited to come and follow Him—to live a new life in the Christian community. It is “a lifelong journey in which our lives take on the sign of Christ” (120). And through this well-watered life we witness to the hope-filled baptismal journey we are on, a journey toward the fulfillment of baptism’s promise.
This is one of the reasons it is so important to keep baptismal imagery and practices embedded in the assembly’s rites, memories, and life. The catechumenate is one way of keeping the baptismal images front and center. By doing so the community is led to live to the end of the journey
As Galbreath concludes, based upon Revelation 22, “In John’s vision, the living water is the source for the healing of the nations. It also nourishes the fruit of the trees that provide sustenance for all who dwell in this new creation. Here the imagery of the waters of baptism in the river of life is linked to the food from the tree of life what we will share together. Baptism and Eucharist are held together in one scene as the source and summit of new life” (123). That eschatological vision is the goal and the catechumenate keeps our eyes always focused on that baptismal promise in Jesus.