By Karen Brode
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
No singing was as sweet as the melodies that drifted from the church house that morning. Winnie had wanted to be baptized for a long time, but her Mother had insisted that she wait until warmer weather. Winnie couldn’t help worrying that then it might be too late.
The thought came to Winnie that she might wait just one Sunday too long and Jesus would come with His band of angels, and He would look at her with sadness and then turn His back and head on up to heaven with all the people she loved, but not her.
O do not let the Word depart
And close thine eyes against the light
Poor sinner, harden not thy heart
Be saved O tonight.
Tomorrow’s sun may never rise
To meet thy long deluded eyes
Poor sinner harden not thy heart
Be saved O, tonight.
The preacher had talked about how sad it would be to miss heaven. How incredibly miserable the people in hell would be, being closed off from God forever. And if the world came to an end that night, or even if a tornado came and swept away their house with her family in it, they would probably all go to heaven except her. Her mother and father were saved, and Albert was only 7 years old so he could probably be forgiven for his childish ways. Even the baby her mother was carrying would be saved. Momma had not gone to church that evening because she was having a lot of trouble with her pregnancy.
It was Winnie who risked missing heaven! The preacher talked about the age of accountability and Winnie had felt responsible and put on this earth for a high purpose as long as she could remember. She had turned 11 years old last November, and she knew it was time she assumed her duties as a Christian.
Her chest swelled as she stepped out into the aisle during the last chorus. These matters weren’t earthly matters. She could not worry about catching a cold or getting pneumonia. If she did, she did. At least she would go to heaven.
The preacher took her hand in his and led her to the front seat of the small country church. She glanced back at her family, and her father’s face shone with pride. Albert had a look of merriment on his face. He had invited Rubin to sit with the family and he and Rubin were laughing. Winnie frowned and then felt the rubber band hit the back of her head. She pulled the rubber band out of her hair and tried to concentrate on the matter at hand.
“One more song, Ladies and Gentlemen,” the preacher announced trying to get one more sinner to walk down the aisle.
Almost persuaded now to believe,
Almost persuaded Christ to receive,
Seems now some soul to say,
Go Spirit, go thy way,
Some more convenient day,
On Thee, I’ll call.
Almost persuaded come, come today,
Almost persuaded turn not away,
Jesus invites you here, Angels
Are lingering near, Prayers rise
From hearts so dear, O wanderer come
Almost persuaded harvest is past,
Almost persuaded, doom comes at last,
Almost cannot avail, almost is but to fail,
Sad, sad that bitter wail
Almost but lost.
Winnie was so glad she was sitting on the front row already and had taken this huge step. She wanted to hurry up and be baptized so that she could feel safe. Another rubber band hit the back of her head and she wanted to beat Albert, but she brushed the rubber band out of her hair and tried to concentrate on the song.
Then the preacher asked the congregation to stand. He pulled her to him and put his arm around her. “Winnie, this is the most important day of your life.”
She felt embarrassed being the center of so much attention. She looked down at her shoes as the preacher went on.
“Winnie, do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross to save you from your sins?”
“Yes,” she answered a little too loudly.
“We’ll meet out by the pond in about ten minutes, and I invite everyone to come and witness the birth of a new Christian,” the preacher said.
Winnie watched as the preacher parted the cat tails and waded into the pond. He had on rubber wading pants. She only had her dress which would certainly float up to the surface. Winnie tried to hold her dress down as she waded into the pond. The mucky bottom squished up between her toes and the water was so cold her teeth began to chatter at once. She didn’t want to look as if anything bothered her, and she kept walking out even though with each step the water became more excruciatingly frigid.
It was April but still cool. Her mother was due to have the baby next month. Winnie wanted everything to be perfect for the new baby. She had even crocheted a bib. She had learned to crochet during the winter and was very proud that she had something to give the new baby.
When she was almost as far out as the preacher, there was a disturbance on the surface of the pond nearby. Maybe a fish, maybe a snake. She tried not to think of a snake. She would start screaming and run all the way home. She focused on the preacher, and he told her how to hold her hands over her mouth and nose. Then, he pushed her back into the pond, pulled her up again, and presented her to the congregation as a new creature.
She was shivering as she came out of the pond. Her daddy wrapped the wagon blanket around her and helped her in the wagon.
Karen Brode grew up in Denison, TX and graduated from Denison High School in 1972. She took courses at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and worked in a church office for 25 years. She and her husband, Gary, have been married 39 years and they have one son, Brandon. Karen’s hobbies are writing, sewing, and gardening.