If You Start Laughing, I'll Elbow You in the Ribs Again, Young Lady!
The lights were dimmed, the red velvet curtains pulled and the bright flourescent lighting filled the front of the church. The pastor stepped down into the waters in our church baptistry and announced we had a number of people who were either professing their faith or joining our church through the ordinance of baptism. A number of the candidates, as they were called, were small children who had accepted Jesus as their Savior as a result of Sunday School or the love of a parent...or both.
The pastor was a young married man, fresh out of seminary, and still was a little green around the gills...not so schooled in etiquette and the proper way of smoothing over awkward situations. He had a quick temper, and if you asked most of the women in the congregation, the single ones would have said he was "dreamy" and the old married ladies would say, "his wife better watch out." The men either thought he was the best thing since sliced bread or thought he was "up to no good". I was eleven and the only opinion I had was that I liked his wife...she was pretty, kind, dressed stylishly, and always seemed to know just what to say in every situation. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.
But this particular Sunday evening was one for the books. The baptismal service was well underway and I had already counted five "youngens" who were baptised and now sitting out in the congregation with their hair dripping all over the floor and pews. Then the pastor announced the next candidate and turned toward her with arm extended to assist her into the waters. She couldn't have been more than six or seven years old and had to stand on a step placed in the baptistry to keep her head above water. He asked her if she had accepted Jesus as her Savior and I remember grinning when she said in a twangy, Southern drawl, "Yep....I shore nuff did, Pastor." Everyone giggled. Appropriate laughter. He then helped place cupped hands over her mouth and nose and proceeded to lower her in the water. Or....that's what everyone thought was about to happen. She started waving her little arms all around, slapping the preacher on the face and dislodging his hairpiece. WHO KNEW! THE YOUNG PREACHER WORE A RUG! I snorted! My mom, who was the worship pastor at the time, and sitting next to me, jabbed me in the ribs with her elbow...never turning around to give me one of her "mom looks". I was trying with everything I had to hold in the bellowing laughter which was threatening to escape my lips. The little girl grabbed the preacher by the shirt and began to tell him she really didn't like him very much and she wanted her mommy. The pastor's face got redder and redder and he finally said, "Will somebody PLEASE come get this child!" He didn't sound sweet, concerned or "pastorly". He sounded angry. I took a sweeping glance around the first few pews and the looks on people's faces varied from shock to disbelief to concern. Then it happened. I caught a glimpse of a girl who was in my Sunday School class and she burst into hysterical laughter...which freed other people to do the same...I couldn't stand it. I snickered, trying desperately to hold it in and my dear ole mom turned her head slightly in my direction and whispered through clinched teeth, "Young lady, if you start laughing I will poke you in the ribs again." Well....nobody wanted that...she had the boniest elbows in the free world!
But it was killing me. Then, miracle of all miracles, my mother started to laugh. The pastor looked at her with daggers and left the baptistry. The curtains closed. The overhead lights came back on and the last song began. But no one could sing...most people were too busy wiping tears from hysterical laughter from their eyes. The only person who didn't laugh was the preacher. Lighten up, Dude! What's life without curve balls?!? Unless, of course, his mother threatened to jab him in the ribs with her elbow..