I am so loved.
I sit in the sanctuary, taut and tired, a nervous wreck.
Erika comes to crouch by my chair, and begins to prattle on about wearing a wetsuit in the pool, wearing fins and a snorkel.
She makes me laugh, and my shoulders loosen.
A hand touches my back, and I turn my head. “Are you changed?” asks my pastor.
I nod. “I don’t want to go first,” I whisper.
“What?” he asks, brows drawn.
“I don’t want to go first,” I repeat slightly louder.
“You’re last,” he tells me. I’m relieved. I wanted to be last.
I step up onto the stepladder. Pastor Rudy reaches out his hands, grasping both of mine firmly as I step into the pool. He gives me a smile. I move to the center of the water.
Pastor John reaches his arm around me, hugging me close to his side. He looks at me for a moment, then brings the mike up to his mouth to start the questions.
He exhales quickly, laughing slightly and bringing the mike down to his side.
He tries again. Same thing happens, only this time he shakes his head and tries to pass the mike to Rudy. Rudy shakes his head.
I am confused.
Pastor John looks at me, as I quiver under his arm. My eyes are dry, but only just, and not for long. I notice the tears in John’s eyes as he manages to ask me the first question.
“Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that God has raised Him from the dead?”
He moves the mike to my mouth. I try to say yes. It comes out as a breath. No one hears it. I have to try again.
“It’s okay, I know you do,” says John. He moves on to the next question.
“Have you accepted Him as your Lord and Savior?”
But the question is cut short as his voice cracks. He only asks me, “Have you accepted Him as your Lord?”
This time I manage to answer with my voice. “Yes.”
Now the third question. “Will you live for Him, and follow Him the rest of your life?”
My eyes turn out to the crowd that I cannot see. My glasses were left in Lyne’s hands. The blurred shapes and colours are reassuring.
“No matter what,” I say, voice shaking, eyes on John.
I see him close his eyes for one second. Maybe two. But it is enough for me to know that I chose the right words.
My pastors sit me down in the water. I bring my hands up, folding them over my nose. Each of my pastors lay a hand on my back, and one around my arm, and lay me back into the water.
I close my eyes. I feel the water rush closed over my head, and right away my pastors sit me upright again. I stand up, slightly numb, slightly giddy, very teary, and step out of the pool to my towel and glasses waiting in Lyne’s hands.
My towel wrapped around me, my hand raised to cover my mouth as the tears slip slowly down my face, I follow Renee, biddable as a child as she leads me to the bathroom where I am to change.
Dominic walks up to me as I am talking with my friends.
“I’m not your real family,” he tells me, “but I’m your church family. I’m proud of you.”
The tears start anew, and we embrace.
Christopher approaches me. He looks at me with his kind eyes, and wraps me in one of his bear hugs.
“I don’t have to say anything,” he murmurs.
“No, you don’t,” I choke out.
“I love you,” he tells me.
My breath rushes out of me. “I love you, too.”
Romain looks down at me and smiles.
“Congratulations,” he says, his French accent rolling the word around.
He leans down to kiss my cheek. My hair gets caught in his scruff. We laugh.
I reach my hand out to touch Andrew’s arm.
“Thank you,” I say simply.
“You’re welcome,” he answers, just as simply, and hugs me.
Camy touches my shoulder. “Congratulations,” she tells me.
“You made me cry,” comes her confession. “That was beautiful.”
She makes me cry.
A hand comes down on my shoulder. I look up.
Pastor John tells me, “Today, you are my daughter.”
I lean my head into him. I am completely overcome.
I am so loved.