"Suck it up, buttercup," is what I told myself as I approached my pastor, Drew Choate, on a recent Sunday afternoon at an event at Harmony Church.
I wanted to be baptized, and the time was now. It had crossed my mind a few times in the past, but I guess this time, the Lord was trying to tell me something. After a brief conversation with Pastor Drew congratulating me on my decision to publicly declare my faith, I felt a wave of relief and joy sweep over me.
I've been a believer since I can remember. As a child, I spent Sunday mornings in church, usually with my head on my Granny's shoulder, drifting in and out of sleep. During my teenage years, I didn't go to church as much, but my faith never left me. When it was time to walk down the aisle, I wanted Pastor Drew to officiate, so he counseled me and my soon-to-be husband, and then we took the big jump.
Fast forward to about two years ago. I've got two young children, a husband, a household to maintain, a full-time job and an internal battle with depression that I can't seem to get a grip on. What do I do? I bow my head and talk to God. And that was the best decision I could have made.
I got back in church. I got my kids in church. Sometimes, I get my husband in church. And this time around, I really listen. Now I pray for the Lord to guide me in the way He wants, not the way I want. Now I thank the Lord for all I have instead of just coming to him with my problems. And now, I don't worry as much because I put that energy into a conversation with God. It's a conscious decision, but it's in my conscience to make that decision because I have a relationship with the Lord, and I'm so much better for it.
But now I wanted to make it official, so to say.
So I sat in the tub of water in front of the congregation and talked about how I wanted to set an example for my family and prove to them that my relationship with Christ is the most important thing in my life. Because of that, I can be a loving and supportive wife, a fair mother and a good daughter. I wanted my church family to know that I will be in Heaven when my time comes because I know Jesus died for me on the cross and the blood he shed has washed my sin away.
Then I was under water, and before I knew it, I was crawling out of the tub to the applause of church members.
And I was grinning from ear to ear. Without thinking, I hugged my pastor, even though there was not a dry spot on me. Somehow, I don't think he minded too much.
As nervous as I was to stand in front of such a large group, I overcame that fear because it was something I was being called to do. And in the process, I've learned that prayer is powerful.
So now, at the age of 35, I'm a baptized woman who can hopefully show the world around me what it's like to live as a Christian. I will fail, and there will be bad days, but with the love of Jesus in my life, I can't be defeated.
Jessica Stephens works as an editor and designer for The Sumter Item. She is a wife, mother of two boys and proud USC Gamecock.