I can't remember when I started going to church; I only remember always having a lingering fear of hell and doing whatever I could to avoid that fate. I went to a Christian elementary school. In addition to quite a bit of bible reading at home and at church, I also read in school - of course. At some point I read about J.C. baptizing people in the water and from what I understood, not being baptized would prevent me from entrance into heaven.
I was terrified.
I had no idea that something else could cause me a hellish fate or block me from heaven, so I immediately asked my father if I could be baptized. He was very proud and signed me up for the classes that led up to a baptism event at my school/church.
I was the youngest person in the class by far - 8 years old I believe at the time. We were given little books and had to meet weekly for a few months in order to understand what baptism was all about. I remember little about the studies, but I remember the baptism itself and being terrified during the weeks leading up to it. What if I died before I was baptized? As far as I was concerned, you couldn't baptize me quickly enough!
The weeks of the workshop finally passed, and my baptismal time had come. I wish I had pictures of the church to share - the narrow hallways and hidden areas of my church/school are ingrained in my mind and I still dream about the areas I knew, as well as discovering new areas.
We lined up in a narrow hallway during a regular church service. At some point throughout the sermon we would be escorted out in front of the audience and baptized one by one (after answering properly if we accepted J.C. into our hearts.) I remember wearing a white robe that was much too large for me and stepping down the narrow stairs into the warm baptismal water. As my turn approached, the pastor (seeming to speak both to me and not to me) asked me my question and I answered as I believed. He gently leaned me backwards, submerging my body as I squeezed my nose tightly with my fingers to keep out the water.
As the warm, thick water lapped up to my forehead I felt a still sense of relief - but the internal fireworks I expected never came.
I later learned I was christened when I was a baby. The bible I used for much of my childhood was given to me by my godparents on the day of my christening. My second childhood baptism would still have been a great experience and all, but at least I didn't have to be terrified of going to hell in the event of a prematurely young death.
Hindsight being 20/20, it's a bit sad that my young self lived a good chunk of her life in constant fear of so many things. I'd say I'm doing much better now - and mostly I am - but I still occasionally get the heebie-jeebies and run quickly up the stairs when i turn out the lights for bed. I never *really* now what's in the darkness behind me...