Sunday, February 3, 2008

Stuck in the Baptistry

When I was eleven, I committed my life to Jesus. (I would do so again as an adult, but that is another story.) My Presbyterian grandmother was not happy that her only grandchild was about to become a Southern Baptist. My mother enlisted the aid of the pastor to convince her that I should be baptized.

The pastor and my grandmother had a long, serious discussion about the two faiths, but my grandmother was not convinced. The pastor looked at me, then turned to my grandmother and said, "A little more water won't hurt her." My grandmother laughed and agreed.

Now, there were some difficulties about my baptism. I had a bone disease, Legg-Perthes, and was either in a wheelchair or on crutches because I could not use my left leg. It was decided that I would be the first one baptized that particular Sunday, so that I could enter the baptistry with the curtains drawn. That worked just fine except that my crutches slipped a little on the metal baptistry. The pastor steadied me, and I handed my crutches to a helper.

The baptism went forward without a problem. I was an avid swimmer and had no fear of water. Getting dunked was no big deal. I cannot say that I felt any different. I was focused on the problem of getting out of the baptistry.

The helper handed me my crutches, and I planted the firmly as I made my way to the steps out of the baptistry. They slid a little each time but held. When I reached the first step, I really pushed the crutches down. The crutches did not move as I pushed myself onto the first step. I pulled on the crutches to bring them to the step. The crutches did not move. I was stuck. The suction cups were sealed to the metal floor. I jerked and the crutches came free with a sound I have never heard duplicated -- a metal flexing and releasing, groaning plop. No one in the congregation made a sound. I had to repeat the process for one more step. The noise was just as horrendous. At the top of the steps, the helper reached down and dried my crutches tips. I had no more problems with sticking.

Years later as I confronted my doubts about Christianity, I would contemplate that baptism and its meaning. I would never forget the grace of that congregation that did not laugh at my predicament. Theirs was a gift I still appreciate.

No comments: