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That Glorious Day

On the day I was baptized, I woke up with a smile. I hadn't awakened with a smile in so long that I had almost forgotten what it felt like. Our church was moving to Howell High School. The congregation was building a new church, but it wouldn't be ready until next year. This would be my last chance– my last chance to get baptized in the first church that had ever really felt like home. I was 16 years old. I am unsure why it took me so long to make this profession of faith. I have asked myself that many times. The only answer I could produce was that there never seemed to be a good time, but today would be the day. 

On that beautiful Sunday morning, I arrived at the church in my baptism shirt: a light and soft cotton tee, blue– my favorite color– with white font stating “I Have Decided….” Looking in the bathroom mirror, I read the words and smiled to myself, “Yes.” I thought “I have decided.” My smile grew larger as I exited the bathroom and was surrounded by friends and family, all talking excitedly about the moment to come. The clock read 10:15. It was time for me to get into position. Three others were to be baptized with me. We made our way behind the stage. Our pastor approached us. He asked us questions, prayed over us, and explained how we would be baptized and in what order. The air was so full of joy I could feel it, all around me, filling the small space like another presence. The haze of joy made even the musty backstage seem like my favorite place in the world. 

Finally, the service was starting. The red numbers on the clock read 10:30. It was time. The pastor introduced himself to the congregation, declaring what a special day it was. He paused his speech until the clapping and cheering calmed down. Then he continued. Pastor Tim called up the mother, then the daughter, and baptized them. Cheers filled our little church building. Then, at last, it was my turn. After waiting so long, I was earnest and ready. I was nervous as I approached the tub. The wooden stairs leading to the baptismal had been worn smooth over the years. The feet of many lost souls had walked upon those stairs looking for redemption, and everyone who searched for and came to this altar had found what they so desperately longed for. 

All I remember thinking is “Don’t fall in.” I stepped over the side of the little blue pool. The water was pleasantly warm as it gathered around my ankles on the first step. The pastor reached out to help me down the steps. I must have been visibly trembling because Pastor smiled at me and gave my hand an encouraging squeeze as he helped me down the slick steps. I wobbled down the three slippery steps till the water rippled around my ribs. The water was so warm it made goose-flesh appear on my arms. Sitting down I turned to face the crowd. Seeing the faces of my supporters, family, friends, and mentors, a super-natural peace filled me. My trembling stopped, and I went completely still as if the Lord himself had laid a comforting hand on my shoulder. I locked eyes with my mother in the crowd and smiled at her. Tears of joy pooled in her eyes as well as my own. Pastor Tim introduced me and explained my decision to the congregation. As he was speaking, it felt like he was sharing a part of my soul with so many people. I immediately felt bonded with them. These people were my family now, spiritually at least. 

Pastor Tim reached towards me again and gathered both of my hands in his own. His hands were rough and workworn against mine. The calloused skin was worn from building houses and working in God’s creation. Large, sun-tanned skin, with short, stubby oval nails that had been worn down from use, the long, thick fingers wrapped around my wrists and hands holding me securely. 

If I could imagine the literal image of Jesus there beside me, holding my hand through life and its trials, I would imagine it would have felt like that. I felt securely held up by strong hands, being protected from all life threw at me. I was no longer alone because I was walking hand in hand with God. 

I was drawn from my reflection when Pastor Tim addressed me. “Teagan?” he asked, drawing my gaze back to his face. “Have you decided to follow Jesus? Devote yourself to him? And put none above Him?” I paused thinking over the weight of those words– all the moments of my life that had shaped me flashed before my eyes. I had always known about God and knew He loved me; but in this moment, it hit me how much he truly loved me and all He had done for me. I never had to worry, He was always there. 

I nodded, “Yes, I have decided.” When I spoke those words, a rush of warmth filled me. Pastor Tim smiled and submerged me beneath the water. One Mississippi– the water surrounded me. Two Mississippi– I love you, Lord. Three Mississippi– thank you for loving me despite my mistakes. Four Mississippi– I was raised a new creation, free from my past sins. And now I had shown everyone my faith was genuine. 

I had decided! 

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