I stripped down to my boxers and put on a plain white t-shirt, white socks and green shorts. As I hopped on one foot, I tripped and my shoe went flying under the dividing wall.
I had looked forward to this day for the last three weeks, but now my heart pounded in my ears. I couldn’t even hear the guy in the stall next to me. “Ryan, you ok over there, buddy? Ryan?”
“Oh, yeah, sorry – lost in my own little world over here,” I stammered.
I heard a slight snicker from the area of the sinks as my shoe was shoved back to me.
When I opened the stall, I saw the others standing by the entry door. Everyone was wearing t-shirts, socks and shorts. It was a bit comical, in a way. Five of us: ranging in age from 17 to 73 years old. I was the 73 year old, and believe me, it was not a pretty picture to see me in shorts. Knobby knees and wrinkled all over - I noticed the younger guys glance at one another with smiles.
“Go ahead, laugh – you whipper snappers – time is coming for you too – and gravity wins! Just remember that!”
The 17-year-old walked over to me and gave me a hug. “It’s ok, grandpa – I love you.”
A tear rushed down my cheek; I swept it away and realized that I had forgotten to shave this morning. Embarrassed, I turned toward the wall and again felt my heartbeat beginning to race. Of all mornings – and I forgot to shave.
Together, like a small army, we moved down the hallway and organized ourselves in the predetermined order. When I looked at the row of men, it was obvious that we were lined up oldest to youngest. My heart banged against my chest wall when I heard my name called out: “Ryan Willard.” I stepped to the doorway and looked back at the line to see everyone nodding toward me, encouraging me forward.
I reached the edge and felt the wet floor soak through my socks. I stepped down and water began creeping up my legs. I expected the water to be warm, or at least, room temperature. I took another step down and the water reached my waist. My legs trembled and my lower body swayed in the flow while I fought to maintain my balance. The water raced up my chest when I took the last step and walked across the floor of the pool. As the cold overtook me, I gasped for air. My lungs jerked as my whole body reacted to the cold that enveloped me.
I reached the center and was met by another man, he smiled – the temperature didn’t seem to bother him at all. Maybe he liked the cold. He was only about fifty years old, perhaps it was because I was older that it was difficult for me, or it was the knowledge of what was going to happen and what it really meant.
He held a handkerchief in one hand, and placed the other hand on my shoulder to turn me toward the gallery of people.
He spoke. “Do you confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Do you believe that he was and is the Son of God, who died on the cross for your sins, was buried and resurrected and now sits at the right hand of God? Do you believe that He will come again and that upon death He will take you to the bosom of God to live in Heaven for all of eternity?”
I nodded and replied, “I do!”
As the pastor lowered me into the water, I heard – “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Buried as He was buried, dead to this world and arisen to new life though His resurrection.”
I sputtered as I came up out of the water. My body shook in spasms while I regained my balance.
The pastor looked at me and said, “Breathe, Ryan. Breathe.”
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