Your heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, you said

And because I was 7 years old I believed you.

You fashioned nightmares for me of a lake of fire

Unfathomable terrors I could not comprehend

(You go on burning in agony forever, and ever, and ever, and the torture never stops) and so

I was baptized in a church basement by a pastor named Larry.

He had orange hair and thick glasses.

The curtains raked open, exposing me in dingy yellow light

A girl too small to see over the plexiglass, breathing fast, chest deep in water

Desperate for salvation.

It smelled like mildew and sweat

There was a large wooden cross on the wall behind me,

I felt the weight of it

Larry’s heavy hand on my shoulder, smiling

Asking me the formal questions

I answered eagerly, obediently, too quickly

As good little girls do

Yes, yes, yes

And now, upon your profession of faith

And the authority placed in me by Christ Jesus

I baptize you

(In the name of the Father)

I thrill to these words, awestruck

As if I received a benediction from God himself

I pull air quickly into my lungs

His hands are on my head, pushing me down

Into the water

Purifying me

Blessing me.

Under the surface, a strange dark silence

(And of the Son)

His words sound muffled, far away, detached

My hair floats around my face like seaweed

While he holds me there

In that moment I feel I am being murdered

But in a sense, I am.

I am dying to my wickedness

Soon to be resurrected a new creature

A lamb of god.

I am flooded with hope, anticipating.

Now his hands pull me, draw me up to the living,

(And of the Holy Spirit)

Saving me.

I break the surface, draw air

He sweeps the hair from my face

I stand chest deep and the water streams down

Washing me clean of all my sins

Listening, straining to sense my new heart beating

Looking for any sign of glorious differentness

As you do on the morning of your birthday when asked if you feel older.

But I perceive nothing different.

Dismay, then a paralyzing fear.

Was it enough?

My lack of differentness stands like an accuser.

The baptistry becomes my personal lake of fire

Myself, a fraud

7 years old.

A smattering of applause from the spectators


Welcoming this lost lamb into the fold.

Larry’s broad smile,

His hand on my shoulder, heavier than before.

Let us pray.