Sarah’s Challenge

“Sarah’s Challenge,” Friend, Feb. 1989, 27

Sarah’s Challenge

Eight-year-old Sarah shivered in the backseat of the car. Her wet swimming suit was cold and clammy, and she pulled her beach towel tighter around her shoulders. Wet tendrils of shoulder-length brown hair made dark spots on the towel, and her face was pulled into a frown. Today’s swimming lesson had been a disaster, just like yesterday’s and the ones before that. Sarah’s mother and older brother, Mike, sat in the front seat.

“My teacher taught me the frog kick today,” Mike told Mother excitedly. To demonstrate, he pulled his knees together, bent them nearly to his chin, then kicked them wide apart, almost hitting his mother with one flying foot.

Mother laughed. “Be careful, Mike—I’m driving,” she said. “Sarah, how did your lesson go?”

“Sarah’s a fraidycat,” Mike piped up. “She sat on the steps during the whole lesson. The teacher couldn’t even get her into the water after warmups at the shallow end.”

“Hush up, Mike,” Sarah growled, her face turning red. She pulled the towel more tightly around her and crouched low in the seat.

“Deep water can be scary, Sarah,” Mother said. “Sometimes it takes a while to get used to it. You just keep trying, and it will get easier.”

But something was bothering Sarah more than the swimming lessons. “Mother, when I get baptized next week, do I really have to go under the water?” she asked. “I’m too afraid.”

“Yes, Sarah,” Mother answered. “We know from the scriptures that Jesus was baptized by immersion, and we need to follow His example.”

“Getting baptized isn’t scary,” said Mike. “Dad will be in the water with you. You can even plug your nose.”

Their words helped, but there still was a lump of fear in Sarah’s stomach whenever she thought about the deep water of the baptismal font.

That night, in the bathtub, Sarah thought about what Mother had said. Maybe here in the tub she could get used to the water. Concentrating on relaxing her tense muscles, she took a deep breath and slowly lowered her face beneath the water’s surface. As the warm water covered her face, panic seized her, and she gulped a huge mouthful of water. Coughing and spluttering, Sarah jerked upright and pulled her shaking body out of the tub. “What will I do?” she asked herself. “I’m too afraid of the water to be baptized!”

Baptism day drew nearer. With each passing day, Sarah’s fear grew stronger. Every night she prayed that she would be brave enough to go under the water.

The night before her baptism Sarah couldn’t sleep. She climbed out of bed and knelt to pray again, asking Heavenly Father for courage. Suddenly a thought came into her mind. She got up and walked softly down to her parents’ bedroom. “Daddy,” she whispered into the darkness.

“Is that you, Sarah?” her father asked sleepily.

“Yes,” she answered, “could I talk to you for a few minutes, please?”

Daddy quietly slid out of bed and put on his robe. He took Sarah’s hand, and they went back to her room.

“I’ve been praying that I won’t be too afraid to be baptized,” she began as they sat on her bed. “But tonight I couldn’t sleep, so I prayed again. While I was praying, I remembered a family home evening lesson that we had about priesthood blessings and about how they can help us with problems. Will you give me a blessing, please?”

“I’ll be glad to,” Daddy answered, giving her a hug.

He put his hands on Sarah’s head and spoke quiet, reassuring words, promising Sarah that she would not be afraid of the water when she was baptized. When he finished, Sarah hugged him tightly.

“Thank you, Daddy. I feel better already.” She climbed under the covers, adding, “But I’m glad that you’ll be with me in the water tomorrow.”

“Heavenly Father will be watching, too,” Daddy said, tucking the blanket around her. “He’s proud of your decision to be baptized, and so am I.”

At last the time came for Sarah and her family to go to the stake center. She was wearing a pretty new dress and felt excited and happy—but there was still a small knot of fear in her stomach.

“You look nice,” Daddy said. “Are you ready for this special day?”

Sarah hesitated before answering, “I think so.”

They arrived at the church early, and Sarah went into the ladies’ dressing room with Mother and changed into white clothes. Daddy changed into white clothes, too, and soon the family was sitting together in the chapel. Everyone sang a song, the bishop gave a short talk, and then it was time for the baptism. Sarah’s knees shook, and it was hard to walk back through the dressing room to the steps of the baptismal font.

Daddy took her hand as she started down. “I have you,” he whispered.

Sarah took three slow, deep breaths. She stepped carefully down the steps into the font.

Don’t panic—try to be calm, she thought over and over.

She stood close to Daddy and held his left wrist. He raised his right hand and said, “Sarah Marie Robinson, having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

His right arm came down around her back, and she pinched her nose shut with her free hand. Daddy flashed an encouraging smile, then lowered her gently into the water. Its warmth closed around her, and with it she felt another warmth from inside. She knew then that she was doing the right thing, and she wasn’t afraid. As she came out of the water, she saw many smiling faces.

“You did it, Sarah!” her mother said later. “I’m proud of you.”

“I’m proud of me, too,” Sarah answered, smiling.

Illustrated by Larry Winborg