I was baptized when I was 13.
It was winter.
My mom and I drove to a local church that was having a baptism service. Before we left, I put on thick sweat pants, a turtleneck and a big warm sweatshirt. All I could think of was how cold I was going to get before I could get back into those warm clothes.
Things get a little fuzzy for me at this point. I was shown into a locker room (the baptismal was in the gym) and told to put on a white gown. The locker room was freezing. I'm not sure whether I decided to put the gown on over my clothes because I was cold or if I was too self-conscious to change. But there I was, wrapped in about 20 pounds of woolly cotton and fleece and a white gown.
Someone came and got me when it was my turn. The pastor said a little something and then down I went. Down I stayed. I was so heavy in my layers of clothing that the pastor struggled to lift me back up. I can't swim. Panic swelled and I thrashed. Finally, I found my feet and tried to drag myself up the stairs and out of that scary water. It was very difficult. I was so heavy, I could barely walk up the stairs! Water logged, I headed to the locker room, only to realize that I had nothing to change in to!!!
I wrung my clothes out as best I could and went home. My socks were dry and I was thankful.
Now, contrary to popular opinion, this incident didn't scar me or make me doubt my salvation. Indeed, through the years it made a wonderful story and I loved reenacting it. But I haven't thought of it for a long time, until today.
Last week I laid down in my bed after a long night of planning. Immediately when I laid down, I started gasping. Dave asked what the matter was and I told him I felt like Henry the VIII was sitting on my chest. Several times in the night I woke up gasping for air. Dave would wake up, alarmed, and ask, "Henry?" I'd nod and cough.
This went on for over a week. Shortness of breath or coughing fits would catch me off guard during the day. At night Henry was always there. My mom prayed over me. A friend came over and prayed for me. I started walking in faith in God's healing. Henry started losing weight.
Then today during worship in church, I saw it. Me, in the baptismal, gasping for air. It flashed through my mind, played for an instant like an old home video, then was gone.
But I saw.
Comfort turning into panic.
Insecurity begetting heaviness.
Things I had wrapped around myself becoming a hindrance to a true freedom.
And the symbolism of it all hit me like a big king. Not everyone drowns in water. Some of us drown in life and the things we wrap around ourselves for comfort turn into millstones that sink us to the bottom of the baptismal.
And Satan uses the areas of our weakness to convince us that we need another layer of clothing. After all, he reasons, it's cold out there.
Tomorrow Vacation Bible Camp starts at our church. My friend and I will be leading 400 or so kids in music.
Lots of kids will be hearing of Jesus for the first time. I'm very excited.
Henry the VIII will not be coming with me.
I will be wearing a white gown, Christ Himself wrapped round my person,
and I will be singing,
"Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!" Psalm 150:6