Thanks to Tumblr and its so-called “social justice warriors,” the notion of having an emotional trigger is diluted somewhat. But as I found out firsthand, sometimes it’s real.

In this context, a trigger is something that sets off a strong emotional response. I tend to think of myself as mentally well-balanced, so I was shocked to experience violent emotion without warning.

Jessica, Namine, and I were in church. There happened to be a baptism. A young woman had just finished the basic courses our church offers to those who wish to become members, and had never before been baptized.

Nothing was out of the ordinary. I certainly didn’t feel anything stronger than the vague comfort of seeing a Christian being confirmed in her faith. Namine, who was sitting between Jessica and myself, whispered “What’s going on?”

I whispered back, “The lady is getting baptized. The pastor will splash water on her, like John the Baptist did for Jesus when he was baptized.”

The pastor had just finished the introduction. The woman bent over the baptismal font, and the pastor said the words I still recall so clearly:

I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Receive the sign of the cross on the head and heart to mark you as a redeemed child of God.

I flashed back to Namine’s baptism. I was there, dressed in the yellow paper gown, breathing through the hot, sweaty, uncomfortable mask. My shaking hands held Namine’s baptismal cup, but I could barely feel it through the rubber gloves. I was afraid to get close, afraid to stay back, afraid for my daughter’s life. She couldn’t breathe. She was purple, literally purple.

Doctors crowded around her, taking measurements and talking to each other. Intubating her so she could get some oxygen, any oxygen at all. I was afraid, so afraid. I squeezed in between the doctors, dipping my gloved fingers into the water.

Shaking, I reached out and touched my daughter for the first time. I said the words, hardly intelligible even to myself through the mask and the tears. I said the words I’d heard so many times, the first words I ever said to her, and baptized my daughter.

Sitting there in church, all of a sudden I couldn’t see. I realized I was crying. I couldn’t swallow. It was hard to even breathe. My mouth had gone dry, and it felt like I had gravel in my throat.

Jessica saw that something was wrong, and leaned toward me. “Are you all right?”

I nodded. It was easier than saying, No, I’m not all right. I’m having some sort of emotional breakdown.

I excused myself and went into the bathroom. I washed my face several times, trying to catch my breath.

When I felt composed enough, I went back and sat next to Namine again. I didn’t understand what happened — I still don’t — but it seemed to be over.

Total honesty here: as I wrote the pastor’s words of baptism, I started crying again. I consider my memory a pretty reliable thing, but it’s far from eidetic. There are a few things I remember with photographic clarity, though. This is one of them. (Another is the day I married my best friend, Jessica.)

But this was the first time I saw my daughter, the first time I touched her (through hospital gloves, but the first touch nonetheless). Those words, words of comfort and faith, were the first I ever spoke to her.

It’s a bittersweet memory, because at the time, Namine’s life was uncertain. Doctors predicted — not cautioned, predicted — death. This was not hello, this was goodbye. That was what we thought.

I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.
Psalm 118:17

Husbands imagine themselves strong. We tend to think ourselves the rock upon which our families are built, the unwavering foundation which never falters.

The uncomfortable truth is, we’re not. We’re just as fragile as our wives and children, and we all need each others’ help.

I am proud and humbled to say my family loves me. And we are all amazed at what God has done.

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