Through the crowd, I heard a splash and then applause and cheers. I caught a glimpse of the portable above ground pool set up in the middle of the partially constructed building on the church campus. Suddenly this event I had been anticipating for two months became vividly real. My stomach did several somersaults.
I will not be afraid.
I signed up to be baptized after the pastor’s challenge to the congregation to stop procrastinating. For years, I avoided baptism because of an intense fear of water. Despite my reluctance, I felt God telling me not to postpone my baptism. On my own, I would not have agreed to get into a swimming pool and have someone dunk me underwater. For two months, I prayed for God to remove my fear of water.
Earlier that morning I awoke to find thick, dark clouds covering the autumn sky. The forecast called for showers. As I drove to church, I wondered if I would be baptized in the rain or if the event would be cancelled. I pictured myself shivering in chilly water. Then I remembered the day I questioned God about how He expected me to be baptized and the license plate on the car ahead of me said, “BYTRUST”.
Lord, I trust you to make this work.
To celebrate the end of the church’s study of The Purpose Driven Life, the entire congregation met outdoors for one enormous service. The pastors shared stories of how the 40 Days of Purpose study had affected various church members. The last story shared was mine. I sat mesmerized while everyone heard the words I had written in an e-mail to the pastors.
Afterwards, I watched part of the morning baptisms, and returned late in the afternoon for the final service. Judy sat up front with me to watch. She reminded me she's a licensed lifeguard and she would be right there to make sure nothing happened to me. The pastor asked how I was feeling and whether I was ready to take this step. He led me over to the pool so I could dip my hand in the water, relieving my concern over plunging into cold water.
Everyone being baptized assembled on one side of the room. As I felt my anxiety rise, I glimpsed a familiar face, someone I had met at church recently. Bev and her husband were being baptized. I told them about my fear of water and what a giant step this was for me. Bev hugged me and said she would be beside me the entire time. A couple of other women standing behind us overheard the conversation. One said she knew CPR and another said she has been swimming since she was two years old. I laughed and felt the anxiety subside.
The pastor gathered those of us being baptized together and spoke to us about the meaning of baptism, its significance in our lives, and the process and purpose of baptism by immersion. We prayed and then formed a line. I squeezed my towel in my trembling hands and my heart pounded. I headed towards the front of the line, knowing the longer I waited, the more nervous I would become. Just as we began, I saw it had started raining outside.
Before any last minute jitters could send me scurrying for the door, it was my turn. Slipping off my glasses, the crowd became a blur, but I knew several friends were there to watch and pray. Slowly I climbed up the ladder and down into the warm water. The instant my feet touched the bottom of the pool, I felt calm. Every ounce of anxiety dissolved, leaving peace in its place.
After praying and acknowledging baptism as the outward symbol of my inward acceptance of Jesus as my savior, I was lowered into the water. The warm liquid felt like a blanket wrapping me in its protection. As I emerged from the water, I felt an explosion of elation inside. Chlorinated water streamed down my face, stung my eyes, and mixed with tears of joy.
As I climbed out of the pool and into Judy’s embrace, I felt closer to God than ever. Soaked and shivering, I celebrated this monumental accomplishment with my friends. After choosing to obey and trust God, He washed away decades of fear so I could confidently proclaim, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13, NIV)
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