A scene in a recent movie, Tender Mercies, depicts the baptism of a young boy and his stepfather. Returning home from church, the boy notes that he doesn't feel much different. He asks his stepfather if he does. The answer is filled with promise: ''Not yet,'' the man says gently. ''Not yet.'' But one knows that this step of commitment to a Christian life is going to make a difference.
It's a joyous thought that one's life can be changed, even if imperceptibly at the outset. Purification, symbolized by baptism, is one of the greatest gifts of Christianity. Through purification of thought old habits begin to be washed away and feelings flow more consciously from Love, from God Himself. Hardened attitudes and memories of things we wish we hadn't done or words we wish we hadn't said are washed away, sometimes in a moment, as one strong wave obliterates sand writing, and sometimes more slowly. But we do change.
In an article entitled ''The New Birth'' Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ''What a faith-lighted thought is this! that mortals can lay off the 'old man,' until man is found to be the image of the infinite good that we name God, and the fulness of the stature of man in Christ appears.'' n1
n1 Miscellaneous Writings, p. 15.
Christ Jesus was, of course, the ideal man. None other has equaled him in expressing dominion over a material world, in compassion and healing, in strength and ability to live fully, eternally. We can aspire to emulate him, to follow his example. But to do so does demand that we gain a new view of ourselves.
In Biblical times John the Baptist earned his name by baptizing his followers with water, but he knew that the Christ offers an even more thorough baptism. He said, ''There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.'' n2
n2 Mark 1:7, 8.
And Jesus, of whom John spoke, did immerse his followers in the knowledge of the power of God. He said, ''Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Jud8a, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.'' n3
n3 Acts 1:8.
When, through the eternal Christ-power, we experience the baptism of the Holy Ghost, we may not at first be aware of any immediate change in our lives. We may feel far short of being a witness to the perfection and power of God. But the heartfelt desire to do better, to be better, has its influence. And this influence is quickened by a recognition that man, in his true spiritual being, is already perfect, the eternal manifestation of a perfect Father-Mother God.
The effects of losing sight of perfect spiritual selfhood also may be imperceptible at first. I was dusting a lovely old piece of furniture one day and realized I hadn't been enjoying its beauty lately. An almost hidden layer of undisturbed dust had covered its surface. At first, when only half dusted, the piece looked downright ugly. But when the cleaning job was complete, its full beauty appeared.
The lessons in this analogy are many. But they still only begin to say what happens when one is baptized with the Holy Ghost, the very spirit of God. More than surface cleaning, the action of the Holy Ghost is the unfoldment of reality itself, the revealing of divine Love as the very substance of man's being. Our willingness to turn humbly from our sins and mistakes is essential to this purifying, this laying off of the ''old man.'' Meekness enables us to discover ourselves in Christ, the very expression of God, and we are progressively transformed.
If you have made a commitment to Christian living - publicly or only in the privacy of your own deepest feelings - and there doesn't yet seem evidence of transformation, don't give up. There will be evidence, for it is a scientific fact that a higher view of man and a desire to live in the light of that revelation remove whatever would hinder our spiritual progress.
''Not yet'' isn't a conclusion; it's a humble and healthy expectation. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8