Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Christian Baptism (10/18/07)
TITLE: When There Seems To Be No Way
By Linda Germain
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“You think he’s dead, Ace?”
“I don’t know, Frito. This is the cemetery. He looks pretty raunchy, though.”
“Well, if he ain’t dead, at least he’s knocked out or something. Maybe the old coot has some dough on him.”
“Listen, pal. I ain’t touching him. He stinks -- bad.”
Someone rolls me over and I feel a chilly breeze on my face. My pockets are searched. I hear cursing when the contents are slung to the ground and land near my head. I feel a kick.
“He ain’t got nothing. Let’s blow this place before we get pinched for snuffin’ the grimy old dude.”
The voices fade and I assume I’m alone again. Mud has built up in my shaggy beard. I manage to open one swollen, infected eye. Through the tiny slit I see my momma’s wrinkled picture and that old silver cross she gave me when I was a kid, before she died. I thought I was carrying it for luck, but so far it hasn’t worked too well.
I try to move, but the effort isn’t worth it. Death is on its way. Voices from the past seem to bounce off of what must be tombstones.
“Get up son, time for school.”
“Congratulations, new graduate.”
“Repeat after me, ‘I pledge thee my troth’. Now I pronounce you.”
“It’s a boy!”
“It’s a girl!”
“You’re wife didn’t make it.”
“We’re downsizing. Here’s your pink slip.”
“Get out of the car, Sir. Breathe into this tube. You have a right to remain silent.”
“Stop drinking. Take a bath. Get a job. “
“Brother, are you saved?”
“Don’t bother with him, he’s crazy. He ought’n to be around decent folk.”
Memories reverberate like a jackhammer. Searing pain in my head makes me beg to die. I concentrate on the tiny part I can see of Momma’s sweet face in the photograph, and the old tarnished cross beside her. She tried to get me to believe the Bible and see the light. I preferred the darkness.
As a child, I loved Sunday school. That was before the reality of life sunk into this stubborn brain and blinded me. I believed misery was all there was.
Do-gooders made me mad. Oh sure, I’d pretend to be interested in order to get a hot meal at those street ministries. Even in jail, spending an evening listening to preaching beat looking at cell walls every time.
I’m getting so cold. I know I really am dying and suddenly, I’m terrified. I hear thunder in the distance but I cannot move.
What if Momma knew the truth about life and death? That means I’ll be in God’s judging presence before the sun comes up. She always said the only way to get to Heaven was to believe in Jesus and repent and be baptized.
Oh Lord! It’s too late. I’ve been so stupid in thinking there was always tomorrow. I’m crying and hysterical.
“Dear God, PLEASE forgive me. I’m truly remorseful. Momma was right. Have mercy! Have mercy!”
My repentance is genuine. Sorrow stings to the depths of my being. The only thing is -- how can I be baptized? There’s no one here to do that for me. I weep, knowing that He has forgiven me, but still thinking I’m doomed because I have not had the sacrament of baptism, the outward sign of obedience that makes me white as snow.
My unworthy soul wails, Oh God, what have I done? I've waited too long! I will never be washed. Lightening strikes a nearby tree and I hear the wood split. Torrential rain pours from the sky and beats hard on my upturned face. Thank you, Lord, I say in my mind, and then I feel the sweet brush of angel wings.
“Well, Sam. Here’s that poor old fellow that always seemed to end up sleepin’ it off on this grave. Better call 911. I think he ain’t gonna wake up no more.”
Sam shuffles over to check.
“Yep. He’s a goner. Man, he sure looks clean. That big rain must of washed him good.”
“Hey, you’re right. And look…he died smiling.”
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