Only to be with you
Everything about the day had felt “off” from the beginning.
The Boise Seventh Day Adventist Church had begun building a new church out past our home on Cloverdale Road, and they had sold the prior church building several months back to provide additional funding in the mean time. We had been renting another church on Saturdays to hold services in, but we couldn’t use it in the afternoons as the Nazarenes had other things scheduled, and well, it was their church after all.
Which was fine, as it had never really felt like our church, so I didn’t regret going somewhere else. But it still felt off.
Now, here we were, getting changed in one of the classrooms in the Eagle SDA Church. I’d never stepped foot in this building before, and now it was the church where I was being baptized. Everything felt off.
I’d listened closely to our instructions, and when we were told to get ready, I took the instruction literally, and wasn’t in the sanctuary when we were supposed to be introduced to the congregation. This apparently led to an awkward moment, but as I wasn’t there, I couldn’t say.
Instead, I was standing alone in a strange room, wearing a robe and a pair of swim-trunks, and feeling sure that somehow I would embarrass myself. I was thirteen, so embarrassing myself was basically my specialty thanks to the combination of a serious growth spurt, an overdeveloped intellect, and the general teenage lack of good sense.
I’d studied for this for a long time, reading and thinking and discussing with the baptismal class after school. I’d put a lot of thought into this, and I felt like I knew what I was choosing. I felt like I understood what was at stake in a very real way.
This was an intellectual moment, not an emotional one, and ultimately, not a personally spiritual one.
Of the five of us that were baptized that day, I only remember two of them, and I only kept up any kind of contact with one of them after that school year. I always felt like that said something about how I processed the event.
Finally we made our way the waiting area just behind the baptismal pool, and we each waited our turn to go into the water. I could hear the pastor, but he was around the corner and out of sight, so I only had a vague impression of what was happening. Then it was my turn, and I was guided over to the stairway and into the water.
Pastor Don, who had given our baptismal class wasn’t available this afternoon, so Pastor Terry was standing in for him. Of all the people involved that day, Pastor Terry was the one who’s life would ultimately seem to me to be the most “Christian.” A good man, like David, with faults and flaws and a heart towards God as best he understood it. Years later, bad things would happen between him and the denomination. Mistakes would be made, compounded by mistakes by others, and ultimately he would leave the SDA church.
Even though I hardly knew him at the time, I know that he’d still remember that day. I’m sure that he remembers every baptism he’s ever performed. Like I said, a heart towards God.
I walked down into the water and he placed his hand on my back. Holding one hand above my head before the congregation, he asked me “do you come here freely, choosing to follow the example of Jesus Christ, signifying your desire to enter into the faith of those who follow him? Do you accept that only through the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are we provided with the grace of salvation? Do you seek to repent of your sins and seek forgiveness and salvation through that grace in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ?”
I nodded my head.
“Then I baptize you in the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.”
He took a cloth in his hand and placed it over my face, then I felt myself tilt backwards as he submerged me in the water. Unfortunately, the cloth was placed too far up the bridge of my nose, and water immediately rushed into my sinuses. As I came back up I was sputtering and struggling for breath.
There was a motion to give me membership in the church, and I know I heard my grandfather second that motion. The vote was unanimous, as they always are in these circumstances, and I made my way back out of the tank and dried off with a towel.
I wanted to feel something different, I wanted to feel new. My sinuses burned and my ears were ringing; and pretty much, that was it. It didn’t feel new or special or different, it just felt off.
[Word Count: 823]