Under the Water
Debbonnaire Kovacs, Jan. 6, 2014 I was baptized when I was fourteen years old. I had devoted all my young heart to God in all the ways I understood, for my entire life, and as soon as I understood what baptism was and what it meant, I started wanted to be baptized.
That is, I knew I ought to be baptized.
I was completely ashamed of the true and secret reason I kept putting it off: I was terrified of being completely underwater. I struggled mightily with this desperate sin. Like many of us, I had been raised to see every weakness or fault as a failure of will or, worse, a failure of faith. If I really loved Jesus, surely I would be willing to go through much more terrible things than merely being underwater for 30 seconds!
So I prayed. And I struggled. And I hid my true feelings from everyone, except God. Thank heaven, I did know I could talk to God about anything at all, and I knew God still loved me, no matter what. I had an image of God disappointed in me, but I also knew, deep down, that God would help me to build up my faith to the mighty citadel it would have to be to enable me to allow someone to put my face underwater!
When I was fourteen, our church had an evangelistic series. You know the kind, four or five weeks of concentrated and earnest emotional orchestration, intended to work us up to the fever pitch that would bring us to our knees at the altar.
We come by it honestly. Our Adventist forebears, and those of most mainstream American churches, grew up in the camp meeting and revival era. Ellen White describes scenes of people weeping and wailing and being “slain in the Spirit” which would horrify most churches nowadays.
I was fourteen. Of course it worked! I submitted my terror to Jesus and stood in water up to my chest, dressed in a white robe and trembling enough to create waves. The organist was playing “I Surrender All,” as I had requested, and I was surrendering all. I could endure, just for those few seconds. I would cling to the pastor’s wrist in the prescribed two-fisted grip and trust that he who put me under would be able to bring me up.
Nobody told me my feet would come out from under me. I was so frightened I almost gulped in water. The pastor expertly pulled me back to a standing position and wiped my streaming face and there I stood, still scared spitless, but overwhelmed with a certainty of new life and that indescribable feeling you get when you face your worst fears and come out a conqueror.
I felt the beam of God’s smile. I couldn’t have put words to it for many years, but today I know God was saying, like any proud parent, “This is my beloved daughter—I am delighted with her!” Or, in the vernacular, “Did you see that? That’s my kid! That’s my girl!”
Because, of course, it was Abba who put me under, and Abba who brought me up and keeps on bringing me up and getting my feet back under me and wiping my streaming face.
That’s my Dad! Did you see that? Did you see what He did? I love my Dad! And he, believe it or not, is still proud of me. You can do anything—anything at all—if God is holding your hand and saying, “I’m proud of you!”