Almost A Believer

by Trisha

                                                                                                    Just As I Am

                                                                                Just as I am, and waiting not

                                                                                To rid my soul of one dark blot.

                                                                                To thee whose blood

                                                                                 Can cleanse each spot,

                                                                                 Oh Lamb of God, I come.

                                                                                  I come

                                                                                                                     William Bradbury, 1836

 

The water in the baptistery is cold and the heavy white robe grabs at my legs as if it wants to hold me under, as if my sins are so deep it will take a good long soaking to cleanse them. Cradled in the preacher’s arm, I am barely breathing.  His white cotton handkerchief covers my nose and mouth.  I hear the words “… in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost” before my feet rise and my body floats as he dips me underwater. Just before submerging, I gaze at the angel painted on the wall of the baptistery. Her long wispy gown trails behind her as if she is facing into the wind, and her eyes are riveted on me, her hands outstretched. Is she welcoming me into the bosom of the saints, or pulling me into a cavern of deceit and illusion? Siren or angel? Heaven or Hades? Where am I headed?

We could be sisters, I think, as the water envelops me. Her eyes are blue like mine. Her hair, like mine, is long and blonde. Then comes the brief moment of weightlessness where I am suspended in the liquid womb-the metaphorical rebirth about to come. Floating in the water, I exist in the parenthesis- not of the earth, yet still bound to the earth. In this symbolic grave/womb, I am dying and being born all at once, and will not understand the significance of this moment for years to come.

 The preacher lifts me from the water and turns me to face the congregation.  He proclaims something to the audience about a watery grave and newness of life while I blink the water out of my eyes, and try to look serene. My first breath, the breath of the saved, is not accompanied by the spiritual elation I have learned I am supposed to feel, but by a worry that the people in the front pews can see through the wet baptismal robe.  Already, just eleven years old, I am failing at being a good Christian. This condition will persist.

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