For Better for Worse
On August 12, 2007, my sister Lydia and her husband Emanuel celebrated forty-five years of happy marriage. During those years, I watched my older sister obeying the rules of that sacred institution, honouring her pledge “for better for worse.”
Six weeks following the wedding anniversary, Lydia told me that she was going to be baptised and start a new life. At age twenty Lydia had found her sole mate, got married and felt secured living with him. Years after she thought of seeking rescue for her soul in another union – one to be celebrated with Christ.
I felt afraid for Lydia even though I knew that she had conformed to the rules of the marriage and would obey the rules of the church. However, I could not help but wondering if she broke any of the rules if she would be expelled from the church. That would have brought shame on our family in Wicky Wacky where we were recognized as ‘decent’ folks.
The precious moment came when family and church members gathered at the Yallahs river to witness Lydia’s baptism. The simple white dress made her look so pure and divine. Immediately, I remembered her flowing white dress on her wedding day. Firmly held by Pastor Newman, Lydia seemed to have gone to the depth of the water and I remembered the depth of her love she expressed for Emanuel.
Throughout my life I had never quite understood the importance of friendships, bonding, intimacy – the whole business of relationships. Lydia had decided to be intimate with someone else. She had pledged again.
“But had she thought of the obligations, the criticisms that were involved?”
Lydia had received a Marriage Certificate and now she would be receiving a Baptisimal Certificate.
“ Lucky her! Sh.. sh… she could be a deaconess in the church!”
I hugged mother’s old sweater tightly around me shivering in the breeze while the inner me felt lukewarm with admiration mixed with jealousy and fear.
“Well, even in the church family, I guess there will be jealousy too.”
“Oh what awful thoughts, I should be thinking of buying my sister a gift. She had looked after me so well after mama died.”
Again, I reflected on Lydia’s wedding while Pastor Newman addressed the congregation.
There were loaves of bread and glasses of wine at the bridal table. My sister believed in the Bible so she was confident that the Lord would continue to provide her daily bread and she would (with her new family) sup with Him. She often spoke about dwelling in the House of the Lord forever, just as she was dwelling with Emanuel.
After coming out of the water my ‘born-again’ sister stood by the side of her husband –as she did on her wedding day.
“She was cleansed. Would she be as faithful to the church as she was to her husband?”
How could I forget the cold words repeated by her forty-five years ago : “Until death do us part”. The pastor spoke of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and its significance to Christian baptism. I wish that Pastor Newman had not said the word “death.” It made me shivered more. He could have said “For better for worse.”
Suddenly, I found myself walking towards Pastor Newman as he concluded in his usual manner:
“Friends, before I leave this place I must ask the burning question: Is there anyone who feels compelled to be baptised this morning?. Be not afraid.”
“For better for worse, Pastor,” I said as I walked to meet Pastor Newman, still standing in the river, his hand outstretched to meet me.
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