MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Baptism is a religious ritual that the faithful experience at different times in their lives. Roman Catholic parents have their babies baptized soon after birth. In some Protestant churches teenagers declare their faith and then they're baptized. Some people are baptized as adults.
As for commentator Lauretta Hannon and baptism, she was thwarted just when she thought it was her turn.
LAURETTA HANNON reporting:
My sister became a Jesus freak in the 1970's. She joined a church called Bible Baptist Temple and even wore Jesus sandals. On her windowsill she kept a giant square headed nail that she said was used to crucify Jesus. I couldn't believe that we had such a holy relic right there in our house. I was five when I began going to church with her.
The centerpiece in the church was a clear glass tank used for baptism. I was dying to get into that tank. I imagined myself splashing and diving and turning flips. I'd be a miniature Esther Williams, pure underwater grace. It would be so fun. It was a thrill just to watch the grown ups going under. They were fully dressed in polyester suits and ties, the women in long dresses. As they fell backwards the dresses would expand and billow out like parachutes while the suits would contract and cling to the men's bodies. Their ties floating to the surface like a water moccasin.
I had to get inside the baptism pool, I had to. I memorized all the steps. Number one, walk up to the altar. Two, kneel at the feet of the preacher. Three, repent your sins and four, accept Jesus into your heart. I loved him already. Then you were saved and you could get inside the tank. All I had to do was come up with some sins. I thought long and hard until I had two good ones to work with. Now I was ready to get saved. I would declare my sins on Sunday and be on my way to my personal pool party with the Lord.
The big day arrived. The preacher issued the call from the alter. I put on a serious face and stepped outside of the pew only to be snatched up by my sister. You can't go up there, get back here. Please let me go up there. You can't, you're not old enough and you haven't even sinned. Yes I have, I have sins, big ones. Shut up! You're embarrassing me.
By then I really did need to get into that pool. I needed to wash off the two big sins I'd been carrying around. I was a thief and a liar. I had stolen a nickel from my sister's piggy bank and lied about having seen the movie Jaws. It was eating me up inside. I just wanted to play in the pool, but once I realized I really was a sinner it had percolated into adult size guilt.
Soon afterwards the pressures of being a Jesus freak got to be too much for my sister and we stopped going to church. My guilt began to fade. She gave away her Jesus sandals. I buried the holy relic nail in the backyard. We both felt like our burdens had finally been lifted.
BLOCK: Lauretta Hannon lives in Powder Springs, Georgia.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.