Didn’t anyone realize I was coming unglued, that some serious soul saving needed to go down pronto? Immobilized by fear, to do anything other than declare my love for my precious Jesus Christ was blasphemous. My grandmother couldn’t really want me to get into her car risking a wreck, death, and therefore eternal damnation. Feed the dogs, yeah right! I might slip on a wet rock on the porch, puncture my eight-year-old skull and catapult me into the fiery depths.
Yet on the odd flip side I was achingly embarrassed to divulge my life altering revelation with anyone in a fleshly form. Surely they’d think me still too young, not sincere enough. Parents, friends, even the pastor couldn’t fathom the intensity of my partnership with the blessed holy trinity. But I knew the holy spirit and I were going to eventually need to come clean about our relationship so that I could be baptized in the sweet holy pool of water above Pastor Buff’s pulpit.
Just the thought of being dipped beneath those healing waters made me flush. Finally all my wretched sins would be literally washed away! The time I tossed my little brother across the living room and his tooth snagged on the carpet ripping it out…gone! Playing office with a girl two years my senior and on the makeshift questionnaire we constructed where it asked for “Sex” and I marked that heathen “Yes” instead of “Female”…vanished! Climbing the highest tree in the yard and perching my friend’s doll on the longest limb where she couldn’t reach it (since she was a wimp and I was flaunting my physical superiority)…never happened in the eyes of the Lord!
Sitting at the kitchen table staring down my caribou casserole, I couldn’t bring myself to eat for fear of choking to death on a sprig of parsley and coming face to face with Satan. I was riled up about letting my spiritual cat out of the bag but couldn’t bring myself to spit out the words I’d been formulating for weeks. I knew what needed to be done, a massive prayer session of course!
Piously turning down my brother’s invitations to play, an obviously pagan activity, I opted to lock myself in my room. Dropping down to the hunter green wooden floor I got busy confessing my sinful nature and expressing my love of all things church related…shoddy nativity scenes, gossip (ahem, prayer) chains, cheesy fellowship dinners, self satisfying revivals, splintering pews, good ‘ole boys club deacon meetings, communion grape juice, hymns sung off key, old ladies’ perfume, embarrassing salvation testimonies…and the list went lovingly on and on.
I’d persevere through countless Lord’s Prayers, flimsy Sunday school pamphlet readings, and running through the witty little poem I devised to help me memorize the blessed books of the bible.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,
Bless this bed that I lay on.
Acts, Romans, Corinthians 1 and 2,
Ooh ooh look at you…
I wouldn’t allow myself to rise until my knees were throbbing red saucers of redemption. Those were the easy sacrificial offerings that delighted me and brought me closer to my sacred Savior.
Nighttime was a different story. After a riveting viewing of the 1977 six hour miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth” I’d cozy under my puffy white comforter adorned with garlands of perky pink flowers, same set as my best friend no less, and wait for my mother to perform the necessary ritual of tucking me in.
She perched on the side of my bed, her curly mane backlit by my reading light, reminiscent of an angel’s glowing halo. After some sweet nothings, a cuddle, kiss and reminder of what was on the agenda the following day I’d slyly request she fetch from my bookshelf “Jesus Wants All of Me,” “Salvation: Gotta Have It,” or the New King James Version Early Reader’s Bible with the shockingly day glow cover. Surely she’d get the hint my soul was in jeopardy. Pray with me, oh Mom please pray with me and calm this gurgling turmoil of Satan’s serpents slithering in the hollow of my heart!
“Early Vacation Bible School morning Jac, you’ll need to zap your own pancakes while I’m out feeding the cows.”
“Oh good, I love it when you make scrumptious pancakes and freeze them so I can enjoy them all week! And with strawberry jam…mmm, so good. I always help myself to seconds.”
What meaningless drivel had just spewed from my mealy mouth? I was desperate for spiritual assistance and was rambling about pancakes! It was the Devil prattling on, taking over my being. And then she was gone, off to read and chat with my father. I was left alone to fend off Lucifer. Maybe if I could voraciously read Revelations, soak up the Psalms, and focus all my attention to God’s word then maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t have sufficient room to invade my essence.
Then I heard it, the diabolically booming voice of Hell. He was onto me and had set loose his minions to devour me wholly. I heard the fires crackling menacingly, felt the burn of molten souls and experienced a cringing rigormortous pierce through my evil earthly tissues. Cramped and petrified, I began to weep hysterically. The Devil’s voice was muddled and deep and I couldn’t decipher his message, but I knew in my heart it was eternal damnation.
Screaming on the inside, I was able to voice only a slight whimper but somehow willed my body to spring from bed. Running into the glowing living room of refuge I found my parents sitting blissfully unaware of the soul pillaging a room away. These simple creatures were flipping through catalogs, occasionally looking up at the television to laugh at a contrived joke or stirring to dip a hand into the amber-colored popcorn bowl.
I stood relishing my freedom from the den of iniquity, loving my parents’ faces bathed in the blue blanket of the tube. How odd, Jay Leno’s jocular voice was strangely like that of the Devil, the cackling audience reminiscent of the writhing souls. Hmm…
“What are you doing up? Thought you were fast asleep, Jac” quipped my father over his new reading glasses.
“Oh, just checking on you guys,” I said, nodding my head and twiddling my laced fingers. “Well, looks like you’re fine. Guess I’ll mosey back to bed now. The sooner I get to sleep, the sooner I get to eat pancakes.”
Merciful Savior, thank you for keeping my family safe, for wrapping me up in your loving embrace and casting Satan away…at least for the time being. I crept back into my flowery nest and wasn’t quite as afraid for I knew a choir of angels was watching over me now.
While the battle this night was won, the war was far from over. I knew that tomorrow, the last day of Vacation Bible School, I must seal the deal with J.C. I needed to go public regarding our liaison, or I’d be in store for even more sleepless nights with visions of goblins dancing through my head.
When I rose the next morning from what seemed like three days in a stone tomb, I meticulously dressed in freshly washed, pleated white shorts and my last year’s first day of school shirt, a stunning maritime blue and white horizontally striped number with enormous shoulder pads sewn in. I thought they may aide in making me feel a bit more assertive, like I could take a tackle for the Kingdom of God.
I swallowed a hippopotamus gulp as our Ford Taurus rolled onto the gravel parking lot of the Bluff Dale Baptist Church. With trepidation I clutched my bible, pressed down the plastic handle, and opened the door to be greeted by the sound of blissfully ignorant children frolicking about as teachers struggled to line them up in front of the sanctuary doors. Carefree fools not taking their final destination seriously!
As if the turmoil in my soul wasn’t painful enough there was drama in the VBS classroom. My mother was teaching my age level so it was decided I should be in the grade above so as not to receive special attention. While it didn’t seem like a big deal to me it was evidently a massive injustice to the girls only months my senior. I was an invader in their older girl territory, and they took great pleasure in shutting me out.
Not only was I spiritually miserable but now socially too. Popsicle sticks at craft time were rummaged through before I had a prayer of getting an unbroken one, and I was spun blindfolded and sent in the wrong direction during “Pin the Forbidden Fruit on the Tree.” And it goes without saying I was never ever picked to read bible verses, wasn’t included in the cool kids’ clique to write in puff paint “God is Love” on our white Hanes tees, and forget about getting a decent place in the snow cone line.
Their snotty behavior should have tipped me off to the hypocritical nature of this place of worship but no…I had taken the Jesus pill and it tasted mighty fine. And I know, I know, Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. But in hindsight, maybe not those little shits. Excuse me, disrespectful and rowdy faux-believers, there only to see cute boys dressed as prophets. I heard their snide comments regarding my obviously unfashionable LA Gear pumps!
I ambled over to Mrs. Watson, tugged politely on her cuffed plaid sleeve and reverently asked if I might have the honor of carrying the Christian flag down the isle this beautiful morning the Lord hath made. Blessedly, in her squeaky voice she absent-mindedly granted my request as she continued to corral young heathens.
Youngsters filed in relatively ordered lines and filled the dark wooden pews according to grade, wee brats who knew not the folly of their ways in front ascending to the knowingly lost middle schoolers in the back. I stood in the foyer grasping the Christian flag’s pole as though it were my life raft along with the American flag bearer and bible bestower. The always cheerful and incredibly talented Mrs. Katie Sue Parker began playing the marching hymn, our cue to bring in the blessed sacraments.
We three kids of Bluff Dale stoically brought our gifts into the sacred sanctuary. I was the bride of the lord marching down the aisle, my peers standing as witness as I passed with the red, white, and blue flag symbolizing my devotion to the church. With my hand at my heart I reverently lowered the flag and recited the Christian pledge.
I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands. One brotherhood, uniting all mankind, in service and love.
My eyes misted gazing at the beautiful folds of pure white fabric along with a dollop of a blue square in the upper left corner and a blood drenched red cross where my precious Lord gave his life. My God was an awesome God who reigned from heaven above with wisdom, power, and love. Hallelujah! It was go time.
When the other Bible school children had filed into their respective classrooms, I chased down portly Pastor Buff Morris and bumbling and bubbling over with the gurgling Jesus cup of salvation I craved, spewed out my intense desire to become one of His flock. I think Pastor Morris was pleased and amused at my zest for Jesus and took me into his office to give me the stringent test of those whom came seeking to become official members of the Christian club.
“Do you believe Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins and rose three days later?”
Duh, of course! Let me bow down, wash his feet, drink his blood, eat his body, wear the crown of thorns, bear the cross for my God!
One week later during the second half of the morning worship service I was dipped in the cool cleansing water of the baptistery behind the pulpit in his death, burial and resurrection. Sopping wet I burst out of the magical water a new girl!
Elated and relishing my fresh start, I was enveloped in hugs and kisses from members of the congregation. Congratulations, presents of bibles, devotionals, an “I’m Saved! Are You?” button were bestowed upon me.
I floated on angels’ wings home to dive into my cross shaped cake my proud mother made for me. As I shoveled in moist morsels laden with tufts of unblemished white coconut flakes, relief and calmness filled my soul for I was finally Born Again.