Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Who Says Church Can't Be Fun?

Today's post is dedicated to my cousin Mary Martin, who died Sunday of cancer. May she be at peace. - D

As I've blogged before, I was brought up Southern Baptist. This meant that I started feeling the pressure early in life to be baptized, along with all that entails. I was nine years old when I decided to take the plunge, so to speak.

I was always afraid of the water, because if I even thought about getting in anything but the wading pool, my mom would freak out. "You'll drown!" she shouted from the side of the pool. "Your daddy will kill me!" My mom knew how to swim. She learned by being thrown into the middle of the fish pond on the farm. It was sink or swim as her father paddled the rowboat back to the bank. She swam, of course, hence I am here to tell the tale.

My brothers knew how to swim and were allowed to be daredevils. We girls were kept sheltered. So when I finally declared myself "saved" and applied for baptism, my stomach began to tie itself in knots. I lost sleep. I fretted constantly, twisting my hair into little dreadlocks. The day approached and I began to have bad dreams of drowning in the baptismal.

The morning of the baptism, I joined my fellow baptism candidates in a small room "backstage." We all took off our shoes and stockings and placed them with our little bags containing a change of clothing. We donned white robes and lined up outside the baptismal, which overlooked the choir loft.

After a few opening words from the pastor, who stood in the baptismal, and a song from the choir, it was time. One of the ladies helping us came down the line to collect glasses from those of us who wore them. I panicked! I was (and am) blind as a bat without my glasses.

"It will be okay," she said, "I'll be waiting for you on the other side with your glasses and a towel."

Nervously, I watched each young person before me stepping down the three stairs into the waist- or chest-deep water (depending on our height). The pastor said a few words, held the nose of the one being baptized and leaned him/her back into the water. Full immersion. I thought about the water that would be getting in my ears. I thought about having my head underwater (a terrible feeling!), and I thought about backing out.

Backing out wasn't an option. It would embarrass my mother, who was in the congregation surrounded by family and friends. It would eventually have to happen or the pressure would just worsen. No child that I knew ever got out of being baptized. I had to go through with it.

My turn arrived. Our pastor was looking up to me, his hand outstretched. I took those three awful steps down into the water. It was warm and soothing. I stood before the pastor, his hand hovering over my head as he asked God to take away my sins and make me new. He brought that hand down and put it behind my waist. His other hand covered my face and held my nose. He leaned me back into the water.

Suddenly the water filled my ears. It was a loud roar. My panic grew! What was in reality a few seconds became an eternity. I imagined myself drowning in the baptismal and thanked God that at least I would be a baptized soul when I died. My hands, which were supposed to be neatly clasped at my waist, flew out to the sides, sloshing water dangerously up the glass separating the baptismal from the choir loft.

After what seemed like an eternity, I was upright again, water running off of me like a fountain. In my excitement at being alive and breathing, I shouted, "HOO-BOY!"

Giggles in the choir turned into belly laughs in the congregation. I hurried up the steps on the opposite side and into a warm towel. Even the nice lady who had my glasses and towel was laughing. I imagined my mother cringing and sitting lower in the pew. However, she got a good laugh out of it, too, and it became one of those stories that stuck. No one ever forgot it.

But my baptism was nothing like the one you'll see in this video. I didn't have nearly as much fun, nor did I actually splash anyone. Yet he'll have this story (and video proof) for his offspring and everyone after (depending on how long videos survive in our rapidly changing world!)

Enjoy! - D


San said...

Hi Momma. I feel your pain, having grown up Southern Baptist myself and having endured baptism by immersion.

My comment on this post: HOO-BOY!

At this moment I'm on a rickety old laptop that won't play your video, but I'm sure it doesn't rival the post.

And my condolence on the loss of your aunt.

Josie said...

What a wonderful story. And what a wonderful video. Thank you for my morning chuckle.

In the Anglican Church, we were baptized by having water sprinkled on our foreheads, so it was not quite the same anxiety level as yours, but my goodness you were brave! Great story!

KathyLikesPink said...

Oh both story and video are priceless!

My sympathies to you and your family.

bluemountainmama said...

me, too.... grew up southern baptist, that is! and i remember a huge black spider floating in the water that i couldn't take my eyes off. i was so afraid it was going to climb on to me.

the video is great!

david mcmahon said...

Great post. I was really ``immersed'' in it!

Not Afraid to Use It said...

Funnily enough, I started thinking of this EXACT video while reading your post. Glad that you had seen it already! This was a really touching story. Loved it.

lime said...

oh my stars, that video is HILARIOUS!!! my 17 year old was just dunked this past weekend so it's all especially fresh in my mind. thanks for your story and the vid.

here via david, btw.

Momma said...

San - Thank you! I hope you were finally able to see the video. It's priceless!

Josie - So glad to help you start your day off right!

Kathy - Thanks again for visiting my blog.

BlueMountainMama - I think the spider would have been a deal breaker for me. Water AND a spider - no WAY!

David - You do flatter me so! Thanks for the props on your blog.

NATUI - I couldn't resist adding that video. It always makes me laugh!

Lime - I'm so glad you enjoyed the post and video. Please come by again soon!

Peace - D

Merisi said...

So funny, I almost spilled my tea over the keyboard. Thank you for sharing it.

Please accept my sincere condolences on the loss of your cousin Mary.

(David McMahon sent me)

Maggie May said...

Momma, I felt just like you when I did it & I was 41! Stayed awake worrying etc.
What a terrible thing to do to throw you in a pond like that. I would certainly have drowned.
I really enjoyed your testimony and also the video! Well done!

Deborah Gamble said...

Absolutely terrific post! I loved it! And no worries, San. The book is always better than the movie and this was no exception.

Momma said...

Merisi - I consider a post a success if it makes one squirt tea out of the nose ;-)

Maggie - I know what you mean. If I had been thrown in the pond (full of snakes) I would have walked on water rather than learn how to swim!

Deborah G - Thanks so much! Stop in anytime...Peace - D