I had never felt anything like it before. I don’t even think it was the sermon that brought me out of my seat in the pew and forward to the pastor’s call. It was the way I had felt since I walked in the building.
I had been told to shake all the men’s hands who stood in the foyer of the church greeting people. So I did. I always did. It was one of my favorite parts of church. They were always so assuring and all respected me from the first day. Every one of them was holy and funny, and they made me feel safe.
That day, I had walked past all of them and they just watched me go. They saw something in my face. They saw something in the way I was walking. I don’t know, but not a single one of those men got in my way or tried to interrupt what was happening within me.
I had no friends at that church really. Misty was there and Blank, but Blank and I had not really hit yet. He was just a guy in the room and Misty, though she had a lot to say to me on regular church days, just kind of hung back.
After Sunday School I walked the entire building. The congregation was meeting in the chapel, but I was walking the hall. I opened every door. I went into every room. I walked into the dining hall and straight into the kitchen, where I did nothing but stand and look around.
When I walked past the door to the Pastor’s office, I stopped. I stared at it and kind of trembled. This is not the main door that opened into the dining hall. This is the door at the end of the hallway, the secretary’s door that joins the Pastor’s office. I stood outside that door and felt cold. I felt alone. I shrugged it off after a while and made it to the chapel.
I sat with my mother and the singing began.
Less was in the very back rebelling. She sat looking at her lap, afraid it seemed to look up. Afraid some God would get in. I guess the final battle between the two forces was going to be a spiritual one. Rose wanted Less in that church and Less just wanted out of it. After this day, Less would hate me a little more than she already did.
She was in the back of the church as far away from the other congregates as possible.
The section of the service where everyone is supposed to greet those around them comes up and I start shaking hands. I’m nodding and smiling and Brother Hoss comes across the aisle to me. He never did this, but he made his way to me and shook my hand with his massive mitt.
“You okay today, Jesse?” he asked.
“I am.” I looked at him but my head felt light.
“Maybe you ought to sit down.” He patted me on the shoulder. “Really glad you’re here today, Jesse.”
I sat and the sermon began. I would love to say the words were inspiring and that I was lifted up by the message, carried away and into the arms of the Lord, but that is not what happened. There is a section of the sermon at the very end when the pastor comes down from the pulpit and summons people forward who have not been baptized. Have them come up and join the Lord. Profess their love of God and be “Saved” and “Baptized.” Those words are not emphasized out of mockery but simply a need to show you what language they use in the Southern Baptist Church.
I don’t really remember walking up to the front. I sat on the front pew and Monk appeared before me.
“Do you know why you are here?” he asked.
“I want to accept Jesus into my heart.” I started crying.
“Do you know what that means?” Monk said.
“It means I am a sinner and only Jesus can cleanse me of my sins and usher me into the Kingdom of Heaven.” This part did not seem inspired. This was a sludge. I had to fight through the confusion and the words that kept rushing into my mind to get those words out.
I had to earn them.
But I did believe them, and Monk shook my hand and brought me before the pastor.
“He is ready,” Monk whispered.
“Jesse Teller has come before Jesus and confessed that he is a sinner. He has accepted the Lord Jesus as his savior and he has asked to be baptized. Will those that agree say amen?”
The entire church said amen, except my sister who fumed, and I was brought to the back of the chapel to the door out. I hugged so many people, shook so many hands, and wept the entire time. I was overwhelmed with emotion and relief. I was so glad to have been through it all and on the other side.
Rose said very little on the way home but when we got home, she hugged me, said she was proud of me, and we both knew that night at night service I was going to be baptized.
“Now when you get baptized, don’t cry so much. That is just overdramatic and unnecessary. It was almost embarrassing. Just try to keep it together tonight.”
I wore a nice shirt, nice pants, and they told me to take off my shoes and socks. The pastor had a rubber pair of pants on that came up to his armpits. He wore white robes I had never seen him in before and he smiled at me.
“I’m going to come from the other side of the baptismal tub and you from this side. I will turn you around facing these stairs and I will pray. I will ask you if you want to be baptized and you can say what is on your heart. Then if you’re up for it, I will dunk you. I will have my hand on your back. I will lean you back. Just bend your knees and lay back. I’ll hold your nose closed. I will pull you up from the water. You straighten your legs and we are done. Your sins have been washed away.”
I made sure not to embarrass my mother and be too happy after my baptism.
To be honest, I don’t feel like a sinner.
I know I am. As I sit here, I know I have committed so many sins and have hurt so many people. I have broken God’s Laws and been far from the Lord. But I don’t feel like a sinner. I feel clean. I feel as though I am not going to hell. This book is not about saving my soul.
This book is about me trying to find peace with the Lord. So many things have happened between me and God, and me and the world, and I need answers. I need God to stand by what He did, and say in my face He would do it again. Or else admit He is not all powerful and things were out of His control. I need to feel loved by Him again and feel close to Him.
Because the truth is, I feel betrayed.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep.