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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christian Baptism (10/18/07)

TITLE: Waiting in the Water
By Jan Ackerson


If you watched television even once in August of 1985, you’ll remember the iconic image of a paramedic, covered in mud, carrying a frightened little boy. The headlines read BABY IN WELL RESCUED—that was me, Will Westin.

Thing is, I wasn’t a baby. I was four years old when I fell into that well, and I remember every frozen moment. My ankle snapped in the fall, so I sat for hours, submerged past my chin. When sleepiness drooped my little head, I swallowed water that tasted of leaves.

It won’t surprise you that I’ve been afraid of water ever since. You might be surprised, though, at the real reason I was in the well—I’d been running from my stepdad and his heavy-buckled belt.

In the media hoo-hah following my rescue, my mother and Joe played their roles well: loving parents, frantic with worry, thankful to my grimy savior. But over the next several years they spent the “well baby” fund on whiskey and cigarettes. Joe didn’t beat me any more, but their neglect of me was spectacular. At sixteen, I escaped.

I’ll spare you the details of the next decade, except to say that a trail of beer bottles led me to another savior. Two rescues in two decades—I’m done with rescues now—but about a year ago, my fear of water caused my first spiritual crisis.

Pastor Bob of the New Hope Baptist Church had given a top-notch sermon on baptism. I need to do that, I thought, but when I remembered brackish well water, my throat constricted in panic.

I’ve spent my life avoiding water. No baths--my mother berated me for dirtying several washcloths each week. When I got older, I’d take speed-showers, my back to the trickling water. Shampooing has always been misery, so I’ve kept my hair Army-short.

I pondered my baptism dilemma, then presented Pastor Bob with a brilliant solution.

“You know about the water phobia, right?”

“Yeah, Will. Haven’t changed your mind, have you?”

“No, but I’ve got an idea. How about if you sort of push me down on my knees—so the water only goes up to my neck? I think I could handle that.”

Bob thought for a moment. “I guess I could.”


“Sure…if you only want to be 80 percent baptized.”

He was smiling, but I could tell that he was serious.

“I guess you won’t think much of my other idea, then. It involves lying down in a couple inches of water and just…rolling around.”

Bob shook his head. “Baptism’s the whole deal, Will. When you’re ready, God will help you through the phobia.”

For weeks, baptism was never far from my mind—and my thoughts were always accompanied by a thudding heartbeat and serious flop-sweat. Finally, on a sweltering day, inspiration struck. I called Pastor Bob.

“What about this—you know those mist-makers that people take to Disneyland?”

Silence—then Bob said, “Will, I’m not baptizing you with a mist-maker.”

I had a quick comeback. “Steam room? C’mon—it’s water, and I’d be totally immersed in it.”

Bob chuckled. “I’m praying for you, brother. I’ll be here when you’re ready.”

A few months passed, and I had another weather-related inspiration in early November. I cornered Bob after church.

“What about snow? We wait until the first good snowfall, and you can lower me into a snowbank. That’d cover the whole “burial” symbolism, right?”

Bob shook his head. “I don’t think so, Will. Keep working on it.”

Well, God kept working on me. It’s going to happen this morning. I’ll finish writing this journey though the life of Will Westin, then I’ll put on my swim trunks and meet Pastor Bob at Blue Lake. I keep checking my heart, my gut, even—sorry to be blunt—my pits. I’m surprisingly calm. I want to do this.

One more thing to tell you--I’ve been writing a few songs. It’s the one good thing I got from my mother—she was always singing along with the radio, and her raspy voice sounded great. This is what the praise team will sing when I come out of the water:

Wounded, scared, and filthy
I was drowning in my shame
Longing for a savior
When I heard You call my name

Wash me, Jesus, wash me
I can’t wait to be made pure
Let me be immersed in goodness
‘Til my cleansing is assured

I’ll stay underneath the water
‘Til my cleansing is assured

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This article has been read 1215 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 10/26/07
God is amazing, isn't He? I love the process this poor Will went through - and the humor you worked into the piece. Great characterization, and I love the ending.
Seema Bagai 10/26/07
Loved the humor in this piece. A light take on a serious topic (water phobia).
Lynda Schultz 10/26/07
Just the right touch of humour. The flashbacking was well done too. Good job.
Betty Castleberry10/26/07
This made me smile. It's a well written, fun read.
Verna Cole Mitchell 10/27/07
A very interesting and creative read--including your song at the end.
Peter Stone10/28/07
I lost it completely when the MC suggested using snow. And I love the 'Keep working on it' response.
Kristen Hester10/29/07
I enjoyed this. It was very cute and creative. Good job.
LauraLee Shaw10/30/07
Ok, this line made me laugh out loud:
Silence—then Bob said, “Will, I’m not baptizing you with a mist-maker.”

What a creative and entertaining story!
Marty Wellington 10/30/07
Loved the parallels of rescue in the well and the ultimate rescue with Jesus. Also enjoyed the humorous take on all kinds of baptisms for the water-impaired soul. Very enjoyable read--thanks for the journey.
Debbie Roome 10/30/07
Lovely from beginning to end.
Laury Hubrich 10/30/07
Nicely written! This young man is putting off obedience because of fear. His fear of water could very easily be replaced by each of our fears that holds us back:) I shudder to think of all the excuses I use! Oh my!
william price10/30/07
Super submission. Wonderful writing. Energetically entertaining. Another masterful manuscript.
Clever and concise. I loved the bits about the steam room and snow bank. You're consistantly creative, Jan!
God bless.
Loren T. Lowery10/30/07
I am almost 100% sure that he did not need to stay beneath the water long:
"I’ll stay underneath the water
‘Til my cleansing is assured."
Because from beginning to end of this wonderful story he showed his heart in his words for everyone to see; and it was a pure heart for the love and salvation only Christ could give. Your story evokes hope for us all no matter how we come to finally be saved.
Joanney Uthe10/30/07
Very creative story. I loved the rescue parrallel and the humor. Isn't it so true that when we think we need to "keep working on it" God is actually working on us.
Cassie Memmer10/31/07
This story is absolutely perfect! I would never change one iota. It is real and demonstrates how God does work in us to change us according to His will. Beautiful job telling this story!
Sara Harricharan 10/31/07
I like the transparency of this character. Very nice.
Brenda Welc11/01/07
Well done (hear me clapping?) I just love the humor in this story, I'm still laughing! Great writing.