Don't tell anybody, but I was raised Southern Baptist. As a teen, I declared my faith in Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and I was baptized at the First Baptist Church of Newington, Ga.
If you belong to a Christian tradition that embraces baptism -- the dunking of adults -- then you remember the moment that you were baptized. It is one of life's threshold experiences. You remember it the way you remember the first day of first grade, or standing before God with the person you love and saying "I do."
You never forget what it's like to stand there in the cold water with your minister, or that moment when he or she plunges you deeply into the water.
I certainly remember it. A young, thin Baptist minister baptized me and my mother on the same Wednesday evening, right before choir practice. Although my mother had attended church all of her life and had loved God for as long as she could remember, she had been raised Methodist.
She had been sprinkled, but not dunked, and so she decided to have herself immersed at the same time that I was.
That young minister weighed about 90 pounds sopping wet. I was a corn-fed farm boy -- a big, strapping kid -- and we all wondered whether he'd be able to pull me back up once he got me under the water. Things worked out OK, though. My head went completely under the water, and he pulled me out blinking at the bright light, emerging into a new world.
When you are brought up dripping wet from the water that way, you have become something new.
The light of Christ transfigures you. You confess to the world -- shivering there in the baptismal pool -- that you have been radically, suddenly changed into something different. You have accepted Christ, who cleanses you from a well that will never run dry. You have become something new.
You enter into a relationship from which there is no escape. God enters your heart, and on some level from that point forward you know him. And nobody will ever take that away, no matter how hard they try.
THE REV. CHARLES COCHRAN IS THE PASTOR OF FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST) IN DOWNTOWN AUGUSTA.