It had taken me quite a while to decide whether or not to be baptised. Truth was I believed that once I was baptised I wouldn’t be able to have sex with David, and that wasn’t something to give up lightly. But my Nan, (my paternal grandmother), had liver cancer. It was terminal and she was devolving into a cadaver before my eyes. It would mean so much to her and so I said ‘yes’ and arranged for it to happen at the next Jehovah’s Witness convention.
Nan died just a few weeks before the convention. At the funeral people came up to me and said “I hear you’re going to be baptised, she would have been so proud”. I couldn’t back out.
I spent the night before my baptism with David. We were bunked up together in the attic of some family home near the convention centre. I remember there were2 jerry cans full of paraffin in the room. David’s eyes watered all night and he found it difficult to breathe. I blew him a couple of times to help take his mind off it.
The next day I stood by the pool in my swimming costume, towel around my shoulders. Someone took the towel as I stepped into the water. Thank goodness it was warm. I held the wrist of my left arm with my right hand, as I used my left hand to hold my nose. I thought “Here we go God, this all belongs to you now”. I was tilted back, my feet slid from under me, and I dropped beneath the surface of the water.
I felt the release, the letting go.
Then time stood still.
I opened my eyes. The surface of the water was far above me, light twinkling across the surface far away. I realised I was deep, much deeper than I could have possibly been in that small baptism pool. And I felt safe. I felt OK. In fact more than that, I felt cradled. Not by the person that was holding me, I wasn’t aware of them, but by a warm and gentle presence. It loved me. Completely. Utterly. And I didn’t need anything else. If I could have sighed with complete relief I would have done.
I was suspended. I didn’t need to do anything. I had no need to breathe, or think, or move, or pray, no need to do anything or be anything. I was in the womb of God and there was nothing else. I didn’t want anything else. Peace, joy, fear, awe, all satisfied in this completeness, this oneness.
For an age I revelled in the presence. There were no words, no language, just simply a being together, a being loved. I knew where I belonged, and to whom I belonged. It wasn’t as if anything made sense, this was way beyond thinking, it was simply about being, being loved.
And then the surface of the water was rushing towards me and I could hear the sound of applause. I made my way to the steps. Someone put my towel around my shoulders, someone else shook my hand, I looked around for someone I knew. I hoped they were in the crowd.
I told David about what happened. To our knowledge it wasn’t an experience anyone else had. David advised me strongly not to say anything to anyone. And then we had sex in the shower.
As I’ve gotten older there’s much about my life I don’t remember, and it probably doesn’t matter. But I remember being under the water with God and I both yearn for it and fear it. I yearn for it because it was the single most beautiful experience of my life, and if that’s heaven then it’s more wonderful than you could possibly imagine. And I fear it because I feel in my bones that the next time I experience it I will have let go of this life completely, and I’m not ready to do that just yet.
David was a mistake. But that’s another story.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
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