Take me to the river

Standing on the bank in my cotton shift, my hair loose upon my shoulders, I watch as the others are raised in the Spirit.

Arms hugging my chest, I try to calm my shivering – not against the cold, but fear. Fear that when I’m laid under my hair will rise around my face, threatening to choke the life out of me.

I am a fraud. Prepared for this ritual my entire life, I cannot believe what I do not understand. I pray that I don’t die before I’m saved.

Yet, isn’t a life of lies still an eternity of torment?

100 Word Song, a writing challenge from Lance based on a weekly music prompt. This week’s challenge is inspired by Live, “Pain Lies On The Riverside.”

Pain lies on the riverside
And Pain will never say goodbye
Pain lies on the riverside
So put you feet in the water
Put your head in the water
Put your soul in the water

When I was younger, about 12 or 13, I attended baptism class at my church. It was several weeks of religious education that once completed, the participants traditionally were baptized. It wasn’t required, but I don’t remember anyone ever not being baptized after the classes. I didn’t want to follow through with the final ceremony, but it was what was expected of me.

At this church, baptism was total submersion. We weren’t baptized in the river, but there was a baptistery at the front of the church behind the chancel. It was usually closed off by a heavy curtain. The pool was like a huge aquarium. A clear glass wall rose up about four feet, and was open at the top so the pastor and supplicant could be seen and heard by the entire congregation.

On these graduation Sundays, we kids were all dressed in white robes. Stepping into the water, the first thing we noticed was how cold it was. Crossing our arms over our chest, the pastor laid one hand over ours, and the other on our back. There were several questions asked and answered in the affirmative, then we were drawn under the water.

The natural tendency was to struggle to get above the water, to try to get a foothold. To struggle would have been embarrassing to us, and to our parents and other family attending the ceremony. We had to give over complete trust to our pastor.

As an adult, it’s still difficult to not struggle against convention, to set aside my doubts and surrender to blind faith. I need to feel grounded, but I didn’t then, and I don’t now.

12 thoughts on “Take me to the river

  1. Im so glad you wrote this, and also that you gave us background. Great thoughts, questioning, struggling against what is expected, and having to trust in a situation where we dont want to and dont feel right. This was an awesome prompt response!


  2. Well done, Tara. I hate that we put “age” as the reason to “be saved” or even for the classes. And, this comes from someone who survived 12 years of penguins. (some will understand the reference). Sometimes, though, belief comes after the “conversion.” You wrote this well.


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