I'm currently reading Frederick Buechner's Wishful Thinking: A Seeker's ABC as my daily devotional source. It has 26 "chapters," each with words starting with a different letter of the alphabet. I'm on B.
Baptism: "Going under symbolizes the end of everything about your life that is less than human. Coming up again symbolized the beginning in you of something strange and new and hopeful. You can breathe again."
A few phrases in that quote made me stop and read it again. First, that "going under" symbolizes the end of everything about your life that is less than human." We say things like, "I"m only human" as if that is an excuse for the errors and sins we commit. This phrase speaks beyond that. God created us to be human, and baptism doesn't erase that. Baptism frees that - frees our humanness from what is less than human. The sanctifying grace of God doesn't transform us away from our humanity; it transforms us into our humanity.
We come up out of the waters of baptism beginning something strange and new and hopeful - we continue on our journey toward what God created us to be. Fully human. Coming up out of the waters, we "can breathe again." That is my favorite image from the quote. We come into the fresh and breathable air of God. Have you been swimming and been underwater too long? Have you experienced the relief of rushing to the surface and breathing again? That's the relief of baptism. We can breath again because we have been released from that which is less than human.
Does that mean we are sin-free? That we are completely transformed? That the work is done? No, not at all. You know that; I know that. But we can breathe again because God is moving us, through grace, to what we were created to be - human.