I was baptized in a little Baptist church in Miami Springs, Florida when I was only six. The water was very cold. It smelled like chlorine. The baptismal pool was on a miniature stage behind the choir loft. Usually, heavy curtains were drawn across it so no one could look at it. But on baptism nights, wavelets from the pool flickered weird shadows on a mural of Jesus standing in the River Jordan.
A white choir robe was pulled over my head for the immersion. It felt so heavy, there might as well have been concrete blocks attached.
The preacher put one big hand on the flat of my back and with the other pinched and covered my nose with a large white handkerchief. I was terrified, immobile, as he expertly pushed on my back, causing my short legs to lose their footing, while pushing my head down under the water with his other hand at the same time.
“Jesus said, ‘Suffer not the little children to come unto me.’ I baptize thee, Mary Beth Jones, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.”
I was sure that my old, sinful, six-year old self was about to die right then, but I emerged, spluttering, flailing, and surprised from the cold pool. At that moment, it was easy for me to believe that Jesus had saved me. Despite the best efforts of that preacher to drown me, Jesus saved me. Hallelujah, I was born again.