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
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)
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.