Friday, January 13, 2012

Could It Be...SATAN?

When I was growing up, my family went to a Christian church of the generic, non-denominational, middle of the road variety.  This was good for a number of reasons--that is to say, it could have been worse. The church was formed in the mid-sixties, and my parents were founding members. Like many churches of its type, it began in someone's home, continued in an elementary school gym, and then grew large enough to progress to its own building. Land was purchased and a building was built. It's been remodeled and additions have been made, but inside it is much the same as it was back then. It sits on a hill a mile from my door.

Back in the day, between my own children's activities and being there while my parents were in their meetings, I was at church a lot. Usually my time there was supervised, but on occasion my mom or dad's class or choir practice would run late. This meant playing and/or roaming around with one of my childhood best friends, Jeff. We practically met at birth, went to the same schools, went to the same church, were in band and plays together, and are great friends to this day. I recently quizzed him about the following story, and he remembers it as I do, and can vouch for its accuracy. We were, indeed, mistaken for Satan!

When we were about seven years old, Jeff and a few other kids and I were wandering around behind the scenes at church. It was late (to us, anyway), and we went exploring in the more mysterious places in the building. We went into the sanctuary, where the windows were dark and the only light on was up in the front, a spotlight on the cross on the wall above the baptistry. Our church was one that believed strongly in full-fledged dunking, so there was a little mini pool elevated up there. When there was a baptism in church, you would see the minister and the "baptizee" emerge from some unseen stairs, and step down into the water. They were dressed in white robes, and could be seen from the waist up. The person being baptized would be dipped back, like in a dance, and then he or she would come up soaked (doused by heavenly father, wet with salvation). This was something I did at age fifteen, but that is a story for another time. I suppose I should tell it.

On this night, we walked up the center aisle and went up the steps past the pulpit. We stood up on a pew that was up there so we could look down into the water. The single light reflected little waves up on the cross. It looked spooky, and we were loving it. We wondered if there was something magic in there, in the water where grown-ups dunked each other and sometimes children and there was supposed to be some change that happened when you came out of it. We wondered if something bad would happen if you touched the water when you weren't being baptized. We tentatively stuck the tips of our fingers to the water's surface, then all the way in, then we were splashing in the water with our hands and arms. Nothing happened. No burning. No magic.

Bored with that, we went back into the choir room, then the room where people got dressed for baptism, the library... Dark rooms that seemed more interesting than they did in the day. It turned out that we kids weren't the only ones who found the church slightly creepy at night. We knew that adults felt the same way, based on what happened next.

We started down the hallway leading by a few offices toward the only door that had light spilling out of it. We treaded lightly so as not to attract attention and possibly be shooed away to a playroom or worse, taken to our parents' boring Bible study class, or whatever. However, in the dark one of the other kids (not me or Jeff--we're the ones telling the story after all) knocked into a shelf of cubbies filled with choir sheet music, and made a noise.

That's when we heard it. The movement in the lit office stopped suddenly, and we knew we'd been heard. We froze in our places, just knowing we were about to be busted by the church secretary or someone. Then we heard a voice, not the secretary, though. It was a man's voice, and it said clearly, strongly, dead-seriously..."SATAN???" We stared at each other in awe, in the dim light.

Like a flock of birds moving precisely and suddenly, we simultaneously bolted down the hallway, into the side door of the sanctuary, down one of the side aisles, and back into safety in the fellowship hall.

We literally fell on the floor dying laughing. Not only were we incredulous about being taken for the prince of darkness (if I were referring to Ozzy, I would capitalize the title out of respect--you see, I actually believe in Ozzy), but also we could not believe who had done the mistaking.

It was the pastor!

The minister of our church heard a bump in the hall, on a Sunday night when there were still people in the building, and his mind immediately leaps to Lucifer, Beelzebub, that is the enemy, the devil. Yikes.

Even at this young age, even though on some level we were believers, we grasped the ludicrous nature of this situation, and made the connection that our very level-minded, not crazy, salt of the earth minister had had encounters with who/what he thought was Satan.

I would go on in life to feel as though I had encounters with some kind of evil, if not the big red man himself. Otherwise rational people from all stages of my life taught me how to deal with such encounters, and I listened, and I believed. I own it.

But then, at age seven, rolling on the floor in tears with my friends...

...it was hilarious.

13 comments:

  1. I will clarify here in the comments for those who don't spot the reference, the phrases "doused by Heavenly Father" and "wet with salvation" come from the song "Baptize Me" on The Book of Mormon soundtrack. I'm so not that clever!

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  2. I wish I had such great stories! The craziest thing our priest ever did was wear socks with sandals. *sigh*

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    1. Ha! I've seen our local Catholic priest with socks and sandals on, too. Must be a thing. :)

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    2. OH! And I love, love, love your new moniker, btw!

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  3. lol... ah yes, church in the school gymnasium... did that one for about a decade! :)

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    1. Isn't that funny, Andrew?! I think every church I've ever attended regularly or been a member of has the exact same history...house, school, church, gets too big, moves... :)

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  4. That's just hilarious! LOL!

    Your old church sounds an awful lot like my old church... complete with the changing rooms and the spooky light on the water from the cross and the baptismal water that was always there ;)

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    1. Yep, there are zillions of such churches here in Hoosierland, aren't there? :) Great for the type of elementary age snooping that I speak of here.

      Dude, you should check out the Vera Farmiga movie Higher Ground. Not sure if it's on Netflix yet. I don't think it's set in Indiana, but it so could be Indiana in the eighties.

      Yep, I almost put a Church Lady pic here. :) I loved the new CL skit that he did when he hosted last spring. :) I also loved the gag that Garth did with the Oscars..."Anne Hath a way of giving me a bone..." LOL

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  6. Hey! I can access the comment form again! Yay!

    Anyway, maybe he was expecting Satan. Who knows? Maybe he needed to renegotiate his contract with the Evil One.

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    1. Ahab! Glad to hear from you. Sorry you were banished there for awhile--I have the occasional annoyance of not being able to comment on my own blog, much less get comments from others. Clearly, this is the work of the devil. Speaking of whom...

      You are so right. The idea that he was not preparing for spiritual warfare, but in fact was just going to take the Old Nick out for a drink...well, that just puts a whole new fun spin on the story. ;)

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  7. Oh, Beetlejuice, I am so enjoying this stroll down your memory lane!

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  8. I'm so glad, Mitch! :)

    I think the next stories I tell will be about the wedding of two fantastic fellas. The best wedding I've ever attended!

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Always feel free to chime in.