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Baptism in Spider Lake

For my godmother, Cynthia Ekren

A couple weeks ago, a tiny spider jumped from my desk lamp to my laptop. I pay attention to these things. If it had been a big, scary-looking spider, and it was crawling on me, I would not pay much attention, which is to say I would scream and jump around until it was off me. And then I’d pick it up with a Kleenex, ever so gently, and fling it back into the wild, outside, and forget about it. But this was a teeny-tiny spider, with the ability to leap a desk lamp in a single bound. So I googled it.

“Spider is a symbol of creativity. It’s the weaver of the web of life and of fate. Spider is able to interconnect, linking the past and the future, birth and creation…. When the spider crawls into our awareness, it is asking us to rebuild the web of our life in accordance with the design the creator gave us.”

Call it a midlife crisis without the crisis. I recently turned 50, and it gets you thinking about how you want to spend the second half of your life. I can’t look ahead any further than that. My oldest child is set to leave home. My body is acting like it doesn’t know me. And yet I feel this overwhelming calm (can calm overwhelm?) that I’m exactly where I am supposed to be. And if not, well, here I am.

Just this year, I’ve noticed there are a lot of tragic anniversaries to commemorate—the day a loved one died, the birthday that never was, the day something terrible happened. It’s to the point that I almost groan when I realize it. Honestly, I’m bored by my own sad memories. I don’t know if other people focus on theirs as much as I do on mine, but I can’t help remembering. And it makes me wonder: as we get older, do we become more conscious of the tragic anniversaries, or do we just accumulate more of them? Maybe it’s just me.

Take this past week (please). Yesterday was one of those terrible anniversaries, a day decades ago when I almost met my maker. At this point, I see no value in marking it. I don’t want it to represent anything anymore. Somehow, perhaps in self-defense, it occurred to me that also, last Wednesday was the thirteenth anniversary of my baptism in Spider Lake.

It was what they call a full-immersion baptism. I didn’t even go to church regularly, but I somehow decided I wanted to be baptized into the Christian faith. I was recently divorced. Though I hadn’t been raised in a religious community, my children had been baptized as Lutherans, because their father’s grandfather was a Lutheran minister. I met my friend Cindie as my marriage was falling apart, and she introduced me to a little Lutheran church in the woods where the pastor gave sermons that made me think. Plus he was quirkily obsessed with the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. So we shared this sense of impending doom and merciful redemption. I was baptized in July 1999 in Spider Lake. To my less religious friends, I explained it away as being the ultimate Y2K preparation. But truthfully, it all came together in a way that’s hard to explain.

I emerged from the water washed clean. Not that I had been bad or sinful before, just that I was now starting fresh. The bad stuff that happened was in the past. And even if there was more bad stuff ahead, it wouldn’t feel as bad. I could manage it. Being baptized was to acknowledge I am not alone. I am connected to my past and my future by a loving God who sees the beginning, knows the ending, and is here to help me through the now. When I type this out, it seems so ridiculous, but I remember that moment, coming up from the water. It was as real as that spider jumping from my lamp to my laptop.
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