by Andrew Kyle Saucier
Suddenly you go white hot and think, “Is it just me? Yep. It’s just me. He’s talking to me and no one else.” Chris Hollomon is standing there in the soft light of the stage, holding up the Connect Card and talking about how we’re a church of next steps. Suddenly your eyebrow is twitching, but you don’t dare itch it because you’re suddenly and acutely aware that he’s staring right at you as if he knows. Then everyone is staring right at you. They all know. And as you pull out your Connect Card, surely everyone has noticed. Faces all down your row turn as if on a swivel to observe in slow motion as you retrieve the thin sheet of paper from the chair back in front of you. A cold sweat has already beaded on your forehead. They can all see that it’s you, and only you out of the entire congregation. Your heart is beating out of your chest, and suddenly it’s the only noise in the room. Everyone from the tech team to the band is standing in perfect silence, watching you. They’ve even turned the spotlight to your seat and you can actually feel in your ear the breath of the elderly gentleman in the row behind you as he leans over to watch you, hand trembling, check “baptism.”
I don’t know why I was so nervous. For me, it was nothing like it is in the movies, where wayward sinners leap to their feet, shout hallelujah and practically dance down the isle toward the water and salvation. I’m not sure if that’s what I expected, that kind of certainty and enthusiasm. It was weeks, months, of agonizing through sermons and baptism Sundays, playing out in my mind the scene just described. A feeling of stark aloneness. The insecurity. The feeling that I would be judged for surely being the one and only sinner in the room. The unnerving certainty of being new to knowing Christ and that surely I was a gross imposter in a room full of good people. Better people than me. My litany of mistakes littered behind me like a bread crumb trail for anyone to follow.
I know I am not alone here. That stark feeling of inadequacy. The nerve rattling moments during the sermons. The agony of indecision and asking, “Does that constitute a lack of faith?” The feeling of emptiness after yet another baptism Sunday during which you stayed dry as a bone.
I’m not even sure precisely when I crossed the line of faith. There was no precise moment. It came on gradually, over the months as I slowly became accustomed to praying, as I served and fellowshipped at the church, as I spoke about the Lord with my wife Leigh Ann, openly and unashamedly for the first few times. So much credit is owed to her in walking me through my faith journey.
I spent several hours with facilities leader Judson Smith literally building the steps for the baptism pool, asking myself with each cut, each nail, Am I going to walk these stairs myself? But when Pastor Josh opened up the end of the sermon to “on the spot” baptism, like I knew he was going to, my feet just got to walking up the isle before my brain knew where they were going. I hadn’t planned to take that walk. I guess it was simply a matter of what was laid on my heart in that moment. I just told my wife, “I’m doing it” and was gone up the isle.
A great stream of men and women just like me were heading toward the doors and I was suddenly aware of an incredible togetherness, a unity of purpose and identity. I had of course known all along that I was not the only unbaptized person in the room, but only in this moment did I believe it. All those Sundays in my seat, the intense feeling of being an inadequate imposter, sweat beading and hand trembling, agonizing over it, asking, “Is today the day?”
When I walked those steps that my own hands had helped build, and sat down in the surprisingly warm water, Shae Hinson, a church elder, leaned over and said to me, “You know there’s nothing magical about this water, right?” I did. I knew that. But in some ways it was laid on my heart otherwise. I know I’d crossed that line already, that this was for all purposes an outward expression of an inward change that had already occurred. But I went under. Then I came back up. My wife stood by, nearly crying with joy. Nearly crying.
See, Judson Smith, dry as a bone, was standing by also. We’d built those stairs together and he’d come to watch me walk them, too. When I came down, I kissed Leigh Ann. She was beaming. Then Judd hugged me like a grizzly bear, heedless that I was soaked. That’s when Leigh Ann lost it. Tears streamed down her face.
Sure, there’s nothing inherently magical about the water itself. There’s a Biblical story of a guy literally being baptized in a puddle. I suppose it could be done anywhere. But for me, it didn’t. For me, it happened at The Bridge, on a day where 121 other people made the same choice.
For some, like it was for me, it came in a flurry after months of agonizing. For others, it may have been a joyous moment they’d planned for weeks. But for all of us, there was a something magical about it. It wasn’t the water, to be sure. It was the place, the people, the moment, for all of us. It is ours for all time and it cannot be taken away.