There were two baptisms at church today: a little girl and a little boy. I didn't get to baptize the babies, but I did get to hold one of them, afterwards, which is almost as good.
Before the service started, I checked in with the parents of the little girl to let them know I was going to be the pastor carrying their little one down the aisle while the congregation sang our baptism lullaby. They warned me that their baby was sort of a mama's girl at this stage, and she might not go to anyone easily.
So we devised a plan that mom would walk right beside me when it got to that part of the service, partly so that her daughter could see her and see that everything was okay, and partly just in case we needed to do a quick exchange due to extreme anxiety.
When the babies were baptized and the song began, I took the little girl from her mother's arms. Her big sister, concerned, wanted to walk with us, so she did. There was a little scrunching of the face and a few squeaks, but then I started to introduce her to her new brothers and sisters, her big and totally enchanted family.
When she looked them in the eyes, and they looked into hers, she calmed down and forgot her anxiety. Some of the congregation members even reached out and touched her balled up fist, or her shoulder. They sang the lullaby right into her eyes, her hands, her heart.
A couple of times we looked back just to make sure her mother and sister were still there. There were a couple of brief moments when we thought she might give way to her fear again. But she didn't.
"Look at what a big family you have!" I said to her. "Meet your new sister in Christ!" I said to them.
When we finished our short walk, and I returned the baby to her mother, she looked at me with a sort of pride. "She did well!" she said. Somehow I thought that all those small interactions with the congregation had something to do with it.
When I am anxious, I am tempted to look more deeply into myself, and feel my inadequacies, my doubts, my failures. But what if, instead, I looked around, looked outward, took time to look into other loving eyes, took time to touch and be touched, to hear the singing around me?