The dark blot

I like to say that I was raised Baptistmethodistepiscopalholiness with a little dash of Church of God thrown in for good measure. As the daughter of Episcopalian parents, with Baptist and Methodist grandparents, Holiness friends, and Church of God help, religion was always close at hand, not to mention the fact that in a town as small as Citronelle, there wasn’t much else to do except go to church – somebody’s church, anybody’s church, whichever church was having something.

We went to fish frys, Christmas bazaars, covered dish dinners, dinners on the ground, revivals (both inside buildings and under tents), singings, camp meetings, and bible school. It was a social outlet with the added perk of eternal salvation. At times, however, I found myself somewhat conflicted.

You see, there weren’t very many Episcopalians at all in Citronelle. We might have 14 attendees on a good Sunday, and our family made up four of them. There certainly weren’t enough young’uns to have any sort of consistent Sunday School program, so I went to Sunday School at the First Baptist Church where Granny (and my best friend) was a member. We learned all the good stories – Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath, Jonah and the whale – and the concomitant moral lessons, all washed down with a lukewarm glass of grape Kool Aide and an Oreo.

After Sunday School was “big church,” the 11 o’clock service, an hour plus of sweating, pulpit pounding, hoarse hollering, hellfire raining down on our collective heads to be endured along with hunger pangs no Starlight mint could assuage. I always knew the end was near when the pianist would start softly playing “Just As I Am,” but that also meant my weekly internal battle was about to be waged.

As the preacher would slowly and meaningfully descend the seafoam green, carpeted steps to the stand amongst us sinners, the congregants would rise to meet him, quietly beginning to sing the first of six verses.

Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for thee, and that though biddest me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come…

The preacher would start to beseech the lost to come up and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and I would wonder if I had the call or was I just hungry. What if I had the call but just wasn’t recognizing it? Was I going to hell? Could it wait until next Sunday so I could see if I was sure? Oh, dang! Next Sunday we’re going to the Methodist Church for family day…

Just as I am, and waiting not, to rid my soul of one dark blot; to Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come…

A dark blot? I have a dark blot? I did lie to my mama when I said my stomach hurt too bad to go to school…Shoot! I’ve gone and given myself the dark blot of a sinner! I’m sure to burn in hell! I’d better go down…I’d better confess it all…I’d better fall to my very knees and pray for forgiveness from the One who can cleanse this horrible spot!

Just as I am, though tossed about, with many a conflict, many a doubt; fightings within, and fears without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come…

Wait a minute. If I go down to the altar, will that make me Baptist? I’m supposed to be Episcopalian. Can Episcopalians even go down there? I’ll be at St. Thomas this afternoon anyway with my parents. I’ll just bet I can have this whole dark blot problem sewn up then. Yes. Yes! I have “done those things which I ought not to have done!” Good old Book of Common Prayer. I can cover this whole blot thing without having to expose myself as a sinner to this whole sanctuary of people who already think I’m a little weird and different because I’m not really one of them. Thank you, Lord! Now if I can just live until 4 o’clock…

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; sight, riches, healing of the mind; yes, all I need, in Thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Alright folks, let’s wrap it up now. It’s 12:15, and Mama is making crabmeat casserole for lunch. All I need now is to get on home. Wait just a minute! Who is that woman headed to the altar? Couldn’t she have gotten the call during the first verse? We’re almost to the end. We were so close! Did I just sin? Is it a sin to want to deny somebody their eternal peace and salvation because you’re nearly starved to death? Maybe I really am wretched! Maybe I’m just delirious with hunger. I’ll fix this at 4 too…

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Okay, that was fast. She prayed; she cried; she’s headed back to her pew to lean weakly on her husband, emotionally spent and somewhat sweaty. Whew! That was close! What’s this? The preacher is heading back up the minty stairs! We’re almost in the clear…our selves and our souls are in the heavenly homestretch!

AMEN!