2017-09-27 / Editorials

Don Lively

WASHED

It was one of those moments when reality came calling.

A little voice in my head whispered that I'm not as tough as I like to make people think I am.

When I was a street cop, working some of the worst neighborhoods that my city of 140,000 souls could produce, I was often accused of being brusque when dealing with the dregs of society that the law abiding, decent citizens liked to pretend didn't exist. Sometimes it was necessary to take a more abrupt and direct attitude with some of the nighttime denizens who were either committing crimes or were stumbling drunk or injudiciously high.

Sweet talk didn't work.

I had a no-nonsense reputation and I never apologized for it.

However, one recent event reminded me that I have several soft spots.

More about that in a little while.

The same event set me to reminiscing, not a rarity as my mind tends to wander backwards through the years at the drop of a fedora.

This particular pondering session took me back to a sandy spot along the eastside bank of Briar Creek, a muddy, meandering waterway that's been a part of my family's history for centuries. One late Spring Sunday morning, many years ago, along with most of the rest of the congregation, I traveled the short distance from my church, probably less than three miles, to that small bar of creek shore. We were there to take part in a very special gathering.

Baptism Sunday.

Several of us, including my little siblings SherryLou and Willie and my cousin Little VZ, were about to be washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Back then you got baptized in whatever you wore to church that day, normally your Sunday-go-to-meeting duds. There were no robes to change into and the water was still pretty cold that time of the year but we didn't really notice.

Reverend Brown did the immersions and to this day I can still remember the feeling of being laid back into the water and then being "raised to walk in a newness of life".

I've witnessed hundreds of baptisms since that day so long ago.

I was in a little mountain church when the pastor baptized a newly saved but still extremely rough around the edges coal miner. Apparently the water in the baptistry was pretty cold because when the miner came up out of the water he was cussing like, well, like a coal miner. Unfazed, the pastor immediately dunked him back under and said, as he did, "The first time didn't appear to work". True story.

I performed a few baptisms as a youth ministry intern and later as a youth pastor.

Once, during a winter retreat in the mountains, a young girl gave her life to Christ late one night. That body of believers believed that baptisms should be done immediately so I was tabbed to do the honors which due to the location of the camp meant using a nearby stream. The only natural pool deep enough for a baptism had frozen over so before I could proceed I had to use a hunk of firewood to break the ice and make way. It was sweetly exhilarating. Just about the time I'd changed into warm dry clothes and settled down by the fireplace with some other camp staff, another young lady came down from her cabin, happy tears filling her eyes, ready to be baptized.

Yep, I did it.

I was blessed to be able to baptize all three of my children. Both of the girls at a relatively early age, young teens, and my son just two months before he went into the Marine Corps where he spent two tours of duty in Middle Eastern hellholes.

I cried like a baby during all three of the baptisms and could barely get the words out.

I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything the world has to offer.

And neither would I trade the more recent event that brought to life my softer side.

My oldest granddaughter asked me to come to Texas to see her baptism.

I went to Texas.

Far from the muddy waters of Briar Creek, my granddaughter was baptized in a mega church's climate controlled baptistry that was at least twenty feet above the pulpit stage. It was so high up that I didn't actually see her go under but seeing the sweet countenance that adorned that sweet face as she entered the water was enough.

Angels sang in Heaven.

And a crusty old, softy of a granddaddy wept on Earth.

Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of two books of Southern Humor, Howlin' At The Dixie Moon, and, South O' Yonder. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.com.

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