When people heard that Bubba Thorton was being baptized they said, “I gotta see it to believe it.” As a result, the church was packed with saints, sinners and the curious. If the town folks expected an ordinary baptism, they were in the wrong place. There wasn’t anything ordinary about Bubba, and there wasn’t anything ordinary about his baptism.
As a youngster, Bubba was known as a hair-pullin’, lunch-stealin’, dog-kickin’ kid. He didn’t improve with age. At his current age of sixty-three, most described him as the meanest man in the county.
Bubba’s pretty wife of forty years, Mary, was sitting on the front row of the church, handkerchief in her hand to catch the many tears that were sure to flow. Mary was as sweet as Bubba was mean. She never missed a church service or an opportunity to pray for the salvation of her husband. Bubba and Mary had two grown children. Bubba, Jr. was as mean as his father and Rose as sweet as her mother.
Bubba had a reputation for being hateful toward everyone, regardless of race, creed, or color. The only exception was his grandson, Tommy. Bubba was a different man when he was with Tommy. With Tommy, Bubba was kind and compassionate.
As Tommy grew, he began to wonder why his grandfather didn’t go to church. One day Tommy asked, “Grandpa, why don’t you go to church?” Bubba was fishing with Tommy at the time of the question. He stared at his bobbing cork and tried to come up with a satisfying answer, but none came to mind.
“If you save me a seat, I’ll be there next week,” Bubba finally answered. Tommy was thrilled.
The prayer of a righteous man availeth much was never as true as it was the next Sunday. The Lord answered Mary’s prayers and the Holy Spirit softened Bubba’s hard heart. He walked the aisle and said the sinner’s prayer with Pastor Davis that day. Many were skeptical of his motives. Perhaps he was just appeasing the boy. The fact that he requested to be baptized the next week convinced some of his sincerity, but not all.
Seven days later Bubba stepped into the baptistry. The water level seemed to rise a foot. He was well over six feet and 250 pounds. He towered over Eugene Davis, the pastor who was barely five foot six and 130 pounds. Many had wondered how the pastor would manage the physical challenge of baptizing such a large man, but it was clear Brother Davis had put some thought into it. As Bubba entered the baptistry, Brother Davis stepped up onto a stool he had placed in the water.
“Brother and Sisters, today we witness the baptism of Bubba Thorton, my brother in Christ. Just last Sunday the Lord spoke to Brother Bubba and he asked Jesus into his heart. We praise God for his decision. And now I baptize you, my brother...”
Bubba looked out at the congregation and grinned, then he disappeared under the water as Pastor Davis leaned him back.
“Like Christ we are buried in baptism, and raised with him to newness in life,” Brother Davis said, his voice rising a pitch from the strain of holding the weight of Bubba.
Bubba came back up with a gasp. He looked back out at the congregation, catching the misty eyes of his wife, daughter and grandson. The Holy Spirit must have been stirring strong, because Bubba threw his arms in the air and shouted “Hallelujah!” Unfortunately, Pastor Davis’s waterproof Timex was caught in Bubba’s baptistry gown, and when Bubba lifted his arms the pastor lost his balance and fell off his stool. Pastor Davis wasn’t much of swimmer and he came up splashing and spewing. Changed man that he was, Bubba lunged for Pastor Davis causing the water to slosh right over the side of the baptistry, sprinkling the choir like they were Methodists. The startled choir gasped in surprise, causing the already giggling congregation to break into loud laughter.
Those who really knew Bubba held their breath, wondering how he would react to being laughed at. He wasn’t the teasing type. But when Bubba got the pastor to a standing position he patted him on the back, looked out at the congregation, and laughed right along with everybody.
Witnessing those events, I knew my daddy was indeed a new man. His transformation impacted me greatly and now, three years later, I’m also a new man and a baptized Christian.
The prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (KJV) James 5:16
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