Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Bridge (07/31/08)
TITLE: God's "However" Bridge
By Ellen Dodson
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As I try to relinquish control of my pen and allow God, the World’s Greatest Author, to script out the details of a much better life for me, I notice that He’s also keen on contrary transitions. When life leads me across a wasteland of deceit or despair, God pencils in a “however” bridge so that I may walk safely back to His Truth. This story illustrates just one of many “however” bridges God’s composed in my life.
Three years ago, after a decade of drifting from my faith, I started the process of joining a Baptist church. I also enrolled in a Southern Literature course. The first evening of class our professor said, “To get a better handle on southern literature, remember back to the southern pieces you’ve read and take a few minutes to jot down some characteristics. We’ll share out, and, to conclude, I’ll show you a clip that I think you’ll enjoy.”
“Family,” “farming,” “slavery,” “the Civil War,” “incest,” “old money,” “poverty,” “tradition,” “gossip,” and “religion” were the associations he slapped down on the board as we called them out for discussion. Although there were a few other believers in class, many of my classmates spoke of Christianity as a mere motif, one that is considered trite and ignorant in today’s edgy, progressive literature. To end our first class on a humorous note and to prepare us for the biblical and anti-biblical threads running through the assigned readings, he showed us the religious satire in the baptism scene of the popular movie, O Brother, Where for art Thou?
Yes, I’ve always liked the movie too, and I understand that we Christians and southerners should be able to laugh at ourselves. But, it was just the timing of the thing. At that moment, with thoughts of my own upcoming baptism, I felt Godless and lonely watching white-robed zombies drone “Down to the River to Pray” as they made their way to the river for baptism. Raised Catholic, I hadn’t seen a Baptist baptism performed, but it’s important to note that later I learned that each Baptist church handles the ceremony in its own unique--traditional or contemporary-- way. Momentarily sucked into Hollywood’s view of Christianity and sitting between snickering agnostics and intellectuals, I felt like a “southern fool.” Was baptism really spiritually necessary? On the drive home, I prayed for wisdom and guidance, and the very next Sunday God faithfully provided a “however” bridge.
Sitting in the pew, I looked toward the altar, where I expected the worship leader to take his place at the podium as always and lead us in contemporary praise. But, hearing a familiar harmony, my attention snapped to the back of the church. “As I went down to the river to pray, studying about that good ol’ way. . .” Where had I heard that before? Just as I remembered the clip from Tuesday’s class, a radiant, white-robed choir emerged from the balcony and the three back entries to walk to the altar. Their voices sounded gilded and faith-powered, and their faces were lit, warm with a contagious energy. As they settled in front of their choir seats on the altar and brought the song to a glorious close, two men in robes, our minister and a smiling believer, waited inside the water of the baptistery.
Watching a fellow believer baptized as a brother in Christ, I joyfully anticipated the date of my own baptism. I couldn’t control the tears or the odd little giggles erupting from inside me. I thought tenderly of my doubting classmates and wished that they could’ve been there, crossing the “however“ bridge with me to watch the amazing clip of God in action.
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