An old-fashioned baptism in the river today after our church service brought back some special memories of long ago and made me smile.
When my Aunt Betty and I were about ten years old, she attended church regularly at the little church in the coal mining community where she lived.
When I wasn’t visiting, Betty and I kept in touch by writing letters. It was a long time ago – before computers, e-mail and I-phones.
Here’s the way I heard about Betty’s baptism:
I couldn’t wait to tell you – I was baptized today!
Last week in Sunday School, we learned about Jesus being baptized in the Jordan River. People watching from the shore were surprised when a dove flew down and lit on Jesus. The Bible says it wasn't a real bird but the Spirit of God. I can't quite understand how something that looked like a bird was really a spirit. I know parts of the Bible are too complicated for us to explain. Sometimes we just have to have faith.
What happened next was exciting. The Heavens opened up and God's own voice told Jesus how much he loved him and that He was pleased with Him.
After learning about baptism, I figured if I ever want to be a full-fledged Christian, it’s time to get myself baptized. I’m almost ten. So I decided to talk to Pastor Robbins.
At first, I thought he was going to try and talk me out of it, but after asking me some questions, he finally agreed to do it if neither of my parents objected. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to tell Mom and Grandma the good news.
Church service seemed shorter than usual this morning and, in no time; I was standing on the banks of Paint Creek at the old swimming hole waiting my turn to go into the water. The entire church congregation was singing, “Shall We Gather at the River.”
I don’t know if it was because I was cold or nervous, but it was hard for me to control my shaking body. Mom was standing in the back, but I could see her smiling. I kept looking at her to keep up my confidence. Grandma didn’t go because she has real bad arthritis in her legs and can’t stand very long, but when she kissed me good-bye, she said her heart would be with me and she’d be thinking about me until I came home.
Several members were baptized ahead of me. When Mr. Clark bounced up and out of the water shouting, "Praise the Lord," I began to feel more confident. If being baptized made old man Clark that happy, it must be a good thing.
Finally, I heard my name. It was my turn at last! Deacon Roberts led me to where Pastor stood waist high in water. He placed a damp handkerchief over my nose and mouth. "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit," I heard him say, then before I could count to ten, I was under and back up again... sputtering and wiping at my eyes. I didn’t see a white dove, but I did see two robins chasing each other across the sky.
Then disaster struck. Even though Pastor Robbins was still holding onto me, what he didn't know was that my feet were in a slimy bed of mud and slipping fast. To keep from falling, I grabbed Pastor's neck with both hands and held on tight. He started slipping, too, and all of a sudden, he fell to his knees and I went under water a second time. Some men rushed in to help. Someone lifted me out of the water and I was so embarrassed! I’m certain my face was beet red.
Mrs. Webb waited with a dry towel but I could tell she was trying very hard not to laugh. I dreaded going home. News travels fast in a coal camp. Don (brother) will laugh at me till doomsday!
When I got home I ran straight into Grandma’s arms. I told her there was no dove; the sky didn't open up; God didn't say a word to me, and I was so embarrassed about pulling Pastor down to his knees.
Then I told her I didn't even feel like a full-fledged Christian and she said that maybe God thought I needed to be dunked twice and, most likely, He was testing my humility. I didn’t know what humility was, but Grandma said it’s the way we react when important events in our life don't go the way we expect them to.
I always feel better after talking to Grandma. I guess I really am a full-fledged Christian after all!
Wish you could have been here for my baptism.