Spent some quality time with John the Baptist this week.
Actually, I like to call him “The Dipper.” Dipper isn’t a bad translation of the Greek word βαπτιστὴς that we refuse to translate. Don’t think it will catch on though. Particularly with Baptists.
Here’s a guy who before he was even born was handed a detailed prospectus:
You won’t drink wine or beer.
You will be filled with the Holy Spirit right from the womb.
You will impact your generation.
You will be strong and yet will soften hearts.
You will attune your generation to the very heartbeat of God himself.
Quite the to do list (with one “to do not” item).
For a moment I could see this as a paint-by-numbers life plan, removing the mystery and suspense, the adventure of discovering all this for himself. Isn’t half the fun found in the invention and reinvention of ourselves? Of trial and error, of trying this, then that; of following a path that leads to a dead end, then finding one that opens up in a wondrous vista?
Then I saw instead a canvas being handed to John – a canvas with its own distinct texture and shape – along with a palette of paints for him to splash on it.
And splash he did.
Wild splashing by a wild man in a wild place.
And he seemed so sure of himself, his message, his vision. I don’t hear any quavering or quivering in his voice, no tentative calling, no tenuous pronouncements.
No reed shaken in the wind, this. More like a mighty oak withstanding all the winds beating upon it.
But then the oak is transplanted to a prison yard.
Did I really see what I thought I saw? Did it really mean what I was so sure it meant?
And rather than sitting on the question as it dripped with fresh raging doubt, he spoke it. Out of the prison yard it went, echoing through his followers to the very ears of Jesus.
“Are you the One, or do we look for another?”
There. He said it.
The Dipper was a Doubter.
And after answering John’s followers Jesus owns him. Right there. Publicly. He owns him.
Some solid lessons here in this tale.
Of the reality of our doubts and questions raging inside us, unexpressed, unspoken, as we put on that brave poser face.
Of what we can do with them instead.
Of how He responds when we do.