Saturday, June 11, 2011

Take Me to the River...

Way back in the spring of my senior year of high school, I was baptised.  Growing up in the Southern Baptist church, there was no infant baptism.  Parents were encouraged to dedicate their children to God, which had the family standing in front of the church as the pastor prayed for them all, and specifically that the child being dedicated would grow to lead a life pleasing to God.  But there was no water involved, apart from the tears of emotionally overwhelmed grandparents.  I don't think my siblings and I were ever dedicated, but I saw many other kids in our church dedicated over the years.

As a child, I was a non-swimmer.  Even now, at thirty-four years old, I can only manage to swim a few feet before panic sets in and I need to touch bottom with my feet in order to calm down.  One really bad experience with the water left me afraid to ever submerge my face, which meant baptism was out of the question, no matter how much I felt I wanted to do it.  Discussions with my pastor about the possibility of performing a baptism that kept my face out of the water were fruitless.  Unless I went completely under, he said, it wasn't an actual baptism.  I still fail to see the logic in this (did he suspect the symbolic washing away of sin would leave my face vulnerable to bad, bad things?), but that's the way it was.  Finally, my senior year of high school I decided it was time to suck it up and get baptised.  I'd been doing daily bible study and was interested in truly living the type of life Jesus outlined in the New Testament, and in order to be obedient, this was the next step. 

My timing could have been a little better.  The baptism took place in March, after our sanctuary had burned down as a result of arson (still unsolved, by the way).  Because we didn't have access to a baptismal and this was before the days of portable hot tubs, we waited until the rain stopped for a few days and trooped to the banks of the Mad River.  Looking back, this was downright crazy. The water was freezing and the river was swift and high.  I'm not sure whose idea this was, but they probably weren't firing on all cylinders.  Anyway, my turn came and I waded out, breathless because of the coldness of the water.  I still remember the sensation of icy wetness over my face before being hauled back above the surface, gasping for air and plunking my way to shore to scattered applause.

I'd like to say I took things seriously enough to have a solid Christian experience from that point on, but as most young adults tend to do, I became self-involved and relied heavily upon my own logic to get through daily situations.  That particular issue has been a cyclical struggle ever since.  But I managed to get it together partway into my college years and do my best to be mindful of the way I'm supposed to be living and who I'm supposed to be relying on for even the little things (hint: not myself).  I figure if I counted on Him to get me through the two seconds underwater that felt like much, much more, I can certainly count on Him to get me through the harder stuff that doesn't terrify me half as much.


Jamie said...

I had no idea you weren't into the water. No wonder it was so hard for you to take the plunge and get baptized. (Shame on me for using such a lame pun! hehe) How silly that your old pastor wouldn't consider it a baptism unless your head was submerged. Nevertheless, it's wonderful that you went through with it. (Also a little crazy, considering the rapid, freezing river and all!) I was a senior in H.S. when I was wild river for me, just a little pool in church.

Rainbow Bekah said...

Yeah I don't understand why you had to be completely submerged, maybe he thought it would be like that "Idle Hands" movie, but...for your it bad that I'm sorta giggling over that visual?? Anyways, good for you for being so tough, it takes alot to overcome our fears, so you go girl! My baptism was in the church in suspicious smelling water...does that make my baptism null and void?!?!?

Fern said...

Oh yeah, I'm a big chicken when it comes to water. (giggling at the pun, J!) B, you're cracking me up too! Thank goodness it was only for a couple seconds, 'cause I probably would have started flailing and taken the elderly pastor down with me if it'd been any longer.

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