February 24th, 2007. How could I ever forget this date? It was the day I got baptized, to become an official Jehovah’s Witness. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had been planning to get baptized. Today was the day. I’ll be honest. I saw my Watchtower buddies get immersed; TJ, Scott, Carl, Terrance, Sydney. I was like, “What’s preventing me from getting baptized?” So yeah, I was imbued by some positive peer pressure.
The night before, I remember practicing. As I was in the shower on February 23rd, 2007, I put my left hand to my right elbow, my right index finger and thumb to my nose, turned away from the running shower water, closed my brown eyes, and proceeded to lean my head back. Nailed it! I didn’t slip. I didn’t drown. No lifeguard needed. I’m ready!
I recall being, what I will call, “nexcited”. This is a portmanteau I just innovated. On the spot. Yeah. That just happened. I was both nervous, but excited! I could barely sleep that night. This was a big deal to me. I felt that my life was going to forever changed.
I had went through the 104 question Watchtower catechism. A rite of passage, for the pool of candidates, interested in being immersed. Pun intended. I was now at the building in Belleville, Michigan, for the Circuit Assembly. I, in my suit and tie, sat in the front row, alongside other Kingdom Hall goers, who were also, in a few moments, about to become official Jehovah Witnesses.
We were asked to stand. I stood. The elder on the podium asked us two questions, ensuring our commitment to the decision of water immersion. Both times, I answered in the affirmative. Letting out a full-throated, resounding “Yes!” Then we began to promenade to the respective restrooms, to do a wardrobe change. I had on a white tee shirt and shorts. I was over-engineering, overthinking about the temperature of the immersion water. I thought, “Is it cold? Arctic cold? Like,December in Alaska, cold? Is that really loving your neighbor as yourself? If they love me, the water will be warm.” I dipped my toe into the water cube. It was invitingly warm. They do love me.
I wasn’t in the water cube alone. There was an older white man, a silver-fox Jehovah’s Witness already in the water cube. He immersed me. I was under the water, then I came up. My Mom and Dad were there. Pictures were taken, followed by thunderous applause. Wow. I did it. I am now officially one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
One addendum before I move on. My biological Dad, whom I love, came to me after I was now dried off and back in my suit and tie. My beloved Israelite Dad looked me square in the eye, saying the following, “Son, now you have a target on your back.” A sobering message from my supportive Dad. Back then he was a Jehovah Witness. Now he is not. Things have changed; and things would change for me, too. In futurity.
The Iconoclasm Immersion
As time passed by, I left my religion. As a third-generation Jehovah’s Witness, I had inherited this Eurocentric religion, from my great-grandmother, who passed it to my Mom, who subsequently, passed it onward to her son. The person typing this article. This religious inheritance was challenged by Yah my God, in 2012.
On February 26th, 2012, Trayvon Martin was murdered by a vigilante named George Zimmerman. This one event put me on a trajectory of gingerly examining, even interrogating my Watchtower worldview, with iconoclastic inquiries. W.E.B. Du Bois speaks speaks about, or even innovates a term called, “double consciousness”. At 22, my Israelite identity began warring against my denominational affiliation. This twoness — a Jehovah’s Witness, an Israelite; two identities, two worldviews, two unreconciled strivings, in one beautiful brown body. After leaving my religion, I decided to get immersed; but this time was different.
Immersed into Rabbi Yahshua
[Shimon bar Yonah] answered them, “Turn from sin, return to God, and each of you be immersed on the authority of Yahshua the Messiah into forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of Ruach HaQodesh! (Acts 2:38, CJB)
Don’t you know that those of us who have been immersed into the Messiah Yahshua have been immersed into his death? Through immersion into his death we were buried with him; so that just as, through the glory of the Father, the Messiah was raised from the dead, likewise we too might live a new life. (Romans 6:3, CJB)
July 26th, 2020. There I was. At Metro Park Beach. Facing the waters of lake St. Clair. After I heard an elder say “Next!”, I volunteered to step forward. I had my immersion clothes in my green Oakland Community College backpack. Yet, on the walk toward the living waters, it never occurred to me to run back to the restroom to change clothes. I had everything planned out. In this moment, Abba Yah was teaching me that a person may plan his path, but Yah directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9. Yah was literally directing my steps, into the waters.
Since I didn’t have my shorts on, I emptied my pockets. My wallet. My money. My credit card. My car keys. My phone. All left behind.
[Shimon bar Yonah] replied, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. So what will we have?”
Everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times more, and he will obtain eternal life. (Mattityah 19:27,29, CJB)
The deeper my 5'8 body went into the waters, I noticed that I began to walk differently. How many know that when we immerse ourselves in the living waters of Yah’s Word, coupled with following Rabbi Yahshua The Messiah, that we will start walking differently?
As I kept walking in the water, as the lake water rose up from my ankles, to my knees, to my waist, to my chest, my breathing pattern changed. I was gasping for air. Abba Yah teaching me that He is my life source. That without Yah’s Breath of Life in my lungs, I wouldn’t be here.
I finally reached the four brothers. I stood betwixt two jurisprudent elders. As the waves of the lake were tossing over each other, it was hard for me to keep my equilibrium. In this walk with Rabbi Yahshua, we need other Believers to help us stand firm in Yah’s Word, keeping our balance. Another beautiful lesson from Yah, El Shaddai.
We will then no longer be infants tossed about by the waves and blown along by every wind of teaching, at the mercy of people clever in devising ways to deceive. (Ephesians 4:14, CJB)
After the elder spoke revelatory words over me, I went down into the water. I put my left hand to my right elbow, my right index finger and thumb to my nose; but this time, no shower water. I was in living waters. Blue, pristine living waters. After being submerged underwater, with the strength Yah gave his Israelite bond slave, I came up from the waters. I have now been immersed into the reality, the power, the authority, of Yah, Rabbi Yahshua, and The Holy Spirit.
Baruch atah El Shaddai Yah, for I am forever changed.