Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: BRAND (01/12/17)
- TITLE: Set Me As A Seal Upon Your Heart
By Kayla Stoltzfus
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No stars. No moon.
A dreary night for such an important commitment, but necessary, she knew. Watching the union of rotting ice and dark water, she thanked God for the overcast sky, for the frigid wind that chilled one to the bone.
With her for this momentous occasion were only her immediate family and the two ministers of God whom she had grown to respect and admire.
One of the men looked at the ice-clogged canal and then glanced at the other man. He looked at Mira. "Do you still want to go through with this?"
He moved toward the water while the other, younger man gave Mira some low-voiced instruction. "Brother Hans will wade out first. When you go out, he will ask you to kneel. Because of the..." He cleared his throat and smiled. "...weather, I will ask you the questions and have the prayer here."
The family gathered in a tight semicircle by the edge of the canal as Mira, breathing in deeply of the frigid air, reaffirmed her desire to follow God whatever the cost. Brother Andreas prayed, and then it was time.
At the first few steps into the water, bumping away the bobbing ice, Mira's chest tightened and she had to force herself to breathe slowly and deeply. Her feet were already numb and barely felt the slimy bottom of the canal.
Finally she was there, waist deep.
"Are you clear, sister?" Hans asked quietly. "From here on you will be branded a heretic, and... you know what that means."
Mira nodded. "I want to proceed," she whispered, trying to keep her teeth from chattering.
"You may kneel."
The icy water forced a gasp from her as she knelt. Her chest constricted. Panicking, she struggled to her feet and stood gasping. "Can't... breathe..."
Hans put a gentle hand on her shoulder and glanced first at Andreas, then her father. "Perhaps it would be better---"
"No." Mira shook her head, wrapping her arms around herself in a vain attempt to stop shivering. "I can do it. Please. If you go fast, I'll be fine."
Hans looked toward the shore, and Mira's father nodded. Go ahead.
Mira knelt again, her lips bluish and tight-set, and Hans dipped her backward into the water. "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
She came up gasping and clutched Hans's arm as he guided her to the shore.
Soon she was wrapped in thick blankets, surrounded by her family. But the weight of her decision pressed on her shoulders. How could such a simple action have such complicated ramifications? In the eyes of the civil and church authorities, she was now branded "Heretic" as surely as if a hot iron had burned the word into her flesh.
She leaned into her brother's strong arm, warmed by his quiet, "Welcome, sister," and knew that if she was to be branded, she wanted nothing more than this.
Her family, peace, and God's brand on her heart.
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