Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Baptism - Chapter 2


[Scroll down for first chapter of story]


“Don’t care about the legal,” the young man said, staring hard into my eyes. “Just want someone to hear my side. I feel you’d understand. I’ll make you understand.”
He looked away from me, kept his head down and let out a long breath.
“We had a guest preacher, a beautifully sculpted black man, beauty impervious to the arrows of race, he spoke in a rich baritone, his voice flowing flawlessly from the diaphragm, filled with the wisdom and the glorious possibility of the Lord. There was such music in his voice that I could not discern his words, I sat awestruck as their rhythym and melody washed against my ears. I could feel the presence of the Lord in that voice, feel it flow into that small church, a raw heat that started slow and soft and built until it seared white against my bones. As that heat burned into me, mesmerized by its source, I felt the lure of the pulpit for the first time.
Three weeks later I asked to bear witness; to stand behind the pulpit and speak of the glory and the possibility of the Lord. As I spoke that first sentence I felt a burning and a stretching in my throat, the words came tumbling out, rich and vibrant and round. I felt warmth and light shining from my face and the rustle of the congregation stilled and began to coalasce into one quiet rhythm. I know not what I said but there was a great stillness in the church when I finished and then a vast sigh of breath. When the service was over and we milled on the lawn in front of the church, there was a circle of emptiness around me, even my family stood apart and snuck glimpses of me through hooded brows. Then our pastor, reverend Jamison put his arm around me and announced, I believe this son has been chosen to receive the light”
He stopped, stared at the block wall of the cell, his eyes focused at a distance he could not see.
“From that day on I was set apart, different, removed from those around me. I still walked in this world but was tuned into another. I pursued that voice that flowed through me on the pulpit, sought that pure white heat, the purity of burning from within. All that mattered to me was to feel the presence of the Lord, to witness His glory and to bring that heat and light into the lives of others.
“The world is a swamp of sin and temptation, a maze laid deep with clinging muck that will soil your soul. I was clean and burning with a fire that the muck could not touch; immaculate. Once a month Reverend Jamison allowed me to bear witness to his flock. Once a month the voice swept through me, I brought tears of joy and awe to those that could be reached, their hands rose up, their wet faces turned to the heavens touched by the heat and light that scorched me from within.

“It was in the spring that I found my calling. Reverend Jamison asked me to help him in the baptism of the young adults being confirmed into the church. In the fullness of spring we took the group to a small river outside of town and one by one brought them into the water, asked them to accept The Lord into their lives and pushed their heads beneath the surface and let the river carry away their sins.
“It was a cool sunny morning, loud with the running of the creek and the cries of birds. The students stood in a cluster on the bank, their clothes covered by white choir robes, their bare feet shifting on the smooth gravel. Reverend Jamison stood hip deep in the cold black water just inside the pull of the current. I stood with the water lapping at my shins, my wet pants clinging to my legs, cold and shivering. Jamison spoke: “Most of you were baptized as babies when you could not chose your path. Now as young adults seeking to enter the church you are baptized by choice, a cleansing of the soul before you walk in the sanctuary as members of our faith.”
“Then I led the first of the students out to the reverend. The cold water pulled at my legs, Jamison told the student to kneel in the cold water, the white robe rising up in the black swirl, he positioned me behind the student and told me to hold her head in my hands. I put my hands on the cool skin of her neck and cheeks, the girl shaking in the cold of the water, Jamison stood before her a hand on each of her shoulders and said. “Today you are cleansed. I baptize you in the name of Jesus Christ”. When he began to speak the cold left me and my hands began to hum and a great warmth spread from my hands through my body and out into the water. He pushed her shoulders down until her head was submerged, held her for a moment, and a great heat went out from my body and filled the water around us. Jamison nodded at me, with surprise in his eyes and a touch of fear and I pulled the girl up from the water and onto her feet, she emerged, new-born and crying, the name of our lord on her lips, red prints of my hands against her cheeks and neck. I released her and she waded to the shore, water streaming from her hair, quietly crying and softly moaning, “Oh Jesus, Jesus, oh Jesus.”
“And so it went with each of the students, each emerging wet and crying from the water, even the two tougher boys, that made quiet and not-so-quiet fun of me in the school, emerged humble and crying and beseeching the Lord.

1 comment:

M said...

Your writing pulls me in. I am loving this story and eagerly await the next chapter.