Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Christian Baptism (10/18/07)
TITLE: The Swimming Pool
By Marita Vandertogt
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Anyway, Sylvia was always wondering. And talking out loud what she thought, her eyes squinting till I told her they’d stay that way. She’d say things that I never thought about much. Sometimes I’d listen. A lot of times I didn’t. I just let her talk. Except this one time. She started telling me about a new church she tried. She heard the preacher guy tell everyone that you had to be baptized, otherwise you couldn’t get into Heaven. Not getting into Heaven was something that always scared her, she told me. She chewed on the grass blade really hard, so I knew she was serious. I said I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t think God would keep her out of Heaven if she wasn’t baptized. But I wasn’t really sure, not deep inside sure. I was baptized, I said. In the dunking tank of First Baptist Church when I was sixteen. Nothing to it, I told her. But I think you need to do it with people watching, otherwise it doesn’t have as much meaning. It’s a way to tell people, and God, that you mean business with Him now.
Well, she’d said, just to be on the safe side, she decided she wanted to do it, the total under water thing, not just the sprinkling. That’s the way Jesus did it in the Old Testament, she said, twisting blonde hair around her finger. No, I told her. Jesus was in the New Testament. Well, in the Bible then, she said, all defensive like, the blade of grass in her mouth twisting around like the thoughts in her head. I wanted to tell her that she needed to be a believer first, but I wasn’t sure if she wasn’t one. Then she’d looked at me and said, very matter of fact. Can you do it for me? Can you baptize me? I told her I probably could. After all, I was a believer, a baptized believer. I didn’t think you had to be an actual minister. People baptized other people all the time in the New Testament I told her. I was pretty sure I was right.
So we planned it for the next Sunday morning, in the shallow part of the swimming pool at the Rec Centre. We’d slip in under the fence when it was still dark. I wasn’t sure how God felt about us slipping and entering, but I told myself the end justifies the means. And this was probably a good end, or at least the start of one.
That morning, we got up and made our way down the street to the swimming pool that lay like a big square black hole, a symbolic coffin, dying to the old self. Sylvia had on a white cotton nightie. I had my black bathing suit and shook in the cool morning air. Okay, she’d said, as we slipped into the water. Let’s just do it. I quoted some scripture and then asked her if it was her decision to follow the Lord Jesus Christ into a new life with Him. She stared at me and said, what does that mean? And I told her that maybe we should wait, and she should talk to a pastor and maybe we didn’t know enough to do this. She said okay, though she reminded me that she didn’t much like church. And I said that would probably have to change, cause God did.
That was a long time ago. Sylvia never went through with it that summer. And later that year, she moved away, to California, with some guy. I never heard from her again. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t have just gone through with baptizing her back then.
But then, she would have had to have gone to church. And as she so often reminded me, Sylvia didn’t much like church. But maybe that’s different now. Maybe she found her way to the swimming pool after all. Or maybe she’s still chewing blades of grass and wondering.
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