Intersections – SavedNicki Salcedo
I wish I was a theologian. I love religion. I’m one of those people who grew up in the church and with a family of church people. It was all I ever knew. Even though I was baptized on a whim at First Baptist Church of Decatur ten years ago, I was not “born again” or “newly saved.” I find these terms unsettling.
One day, my pastor asked me if I’d been baptized. I hadn’t. I’ve never liked standing at the front of the church. I wasn’t sure about being dunked in a river. I’ve never liked showy professions of faith. I don’t like the idea of evangelism.
“Why?” he asked.
I didn’t say anything. It was hard to admit the truth to myself. For me, religion is private. I understand church and holy days and celebrations of faith, but I’ve always tried to balance how to be strong in my own faith while respecting the faith of others.
I decided to get baptized.
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At the back of the pulpit, there is a glass pool. It is very cold and deep. The water is clear and still. As, I stepped into the water, I thought about this mysterious being called God. I thought of all the Gods of all the people everywhere. I thought about birth and death and love and hate. I thought about the distance to the farthest reaches of space and the lights from the universe that pierce the night sky.
People will tell you that I smiled. I smile when I am happy. I smile when I am nervous.
My pastor stood in the water and took my hand. The water was up to my chest. I held onto his forearms and was guided back into the water. I held my breath. I know how to swim. But did I know how to have faith? Was I strong enough to stand in front of a sanctuary of people while soaking wet and filled with questions? Loving the idea of God, but questioning the idea of religion? In the water, it was only God and me.
Not once in my life, before baptism or after, has God spoken to me. Unless you call the sound of water a voice. Then I listened. I heard only heard this.
Be humble. Jesus washed the feet of the disciples.
Doubt is natural. Father, have you forsaken me?
Be kind. We can all be the Good Samaritan.
But why are religions so different? If you read sacred texts from every culture you will find words that encourage perseverance. Stories to address questions that have no answer.
But why are religions so demanding? Religions dictate the way people dress and eat and live. These rules saved people in a world with no protection from the sun and disease.
But those stories aren’t true! Aren’t people of other religions evil? Isn’t hate the best religion? My neighbor recently invited us over for “Spaghetti Shabbat.” There were candles and Hebrew prayers. There was the breaking of the bread. We forgot our differences and our different religions. There was no room for hate. We just enjoyed the company and the stars above.
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I love prayers in languages I don’t understand. I’m thankful for friends who don’t judge me because I’m a so-called Christian. My faith is deepened when others share their faith with me.
And still I wonder if I’ll ever be saved. I have doubts. Then I remember my favorite quote in the Bible is “Do not be discouraged.” There’s a pep talk. “I have commanded you. Do not be discouraged.”
The only thing wrong with religion is people. My faith does not make me superior. It is just for me. I am weak. I need the encouragement. I could be kinder. My faith journey is mine. You don’t need to follow the path I have chosen.
Why did I get baptized when I said that God doesn’t speak to me? In my life, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to God. I’ve said prayers for guidance and prayers of gratitude. The world gets noisy with hate and evil and division and dictates of what is right and wrong. It is hard to hear anything. My solace is talking to God. God has never told me who to love and who to hate and who is wrong. I am the only one I should be concerned about. I talk and I pray and I doubt and I smile. God listens. I know this.
When my father died, I felt a profound sense of loss. He was a man of faith. Where had he gone? Heaven? Hell? Why was the pain so deep? Love cannot be measured or weighed and yet it is. Death is not new to us and yet with each person’s passing the shock of it comes as if it were the first time in the history of the universe.
How can I explain God if I cannot explain love or pain? Who am I to judge who is saved and who is lost, when we are all lost?
I continue to talk to God as usual. Always. It is not for me to judge.
I will wash their feet. Teach me to love. Please save me again and again. I’m not finished.
“Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.