the story room
Ten years ago today...
Today is the ten-year anniversary of my baptism.
I remember standing before my congregation trembling, publicly confessing my faith. I remember the nervousness causing my knees to shake and the excitement causing my heart to pound. I remember the warm water, and how I was plunged underneath (buried with Christ, the pastor said) . . . and I remember my first breath when I rose again (and raised to walk a new life). I remember the handshakes and embraces I received from members of the congregation. It was the first church I had ever been a part of, and had only been there for two months. But as they embraced me or took my hand, I heard over and over, "Welcome to the family."
I was eleven years old. At the time I wasn't aware of all the joy, depth, and mystery that would be mine in Christ, but I was very conscious of the fact that, in this act of baptism, I was acknowledging God's hand on me and His work in my life. I knew that I was called to respond by following Him with everything I had. I knew that God had been working in me and that my life was not my own, but His.
Something changed that day.
I can look back now and see that God had been working in me way before that day -- even before I was born. And I know that my baptism was not about a decision I made as much as it was an expression of God's grace toward me. But on that brisk October morning, I very clearly understood that I died in that water, and that I rose with Christ living in me.
For a decade now, I've been living in this pattern of dying and rising: dying to myself and the sin that I still wrestle with, and rising with this Christ-life that is mysteriously mine. It's been a decade of struggle, to be sure, but it has also been a beautiful decade marked by Life. I've screwed up a lot, but I can look back and see that even so, He's been good to me. And I'm united with Christ. Somehow, I've participated in His death and will also be united with Him in His resurrection.
The mystery of the union of the Triune God and an eleven-year-old girl (now a twenty-one-year-old young woman) still leaves me in awe.
I never gave it much thought before, but I realized this week that I almost always wake up in the mornings thinking about whatever it was I fell asleep thinking about the night before. Sometimes that means I wake up continuing a prayer I fell asleep praying. Other times, it's meant that I wake up preoccupied with the same cares I fell asleep mulling over. I don't think I had ever before considered the impact that my last waking thoughts of the night would have on my whole next day.
I've been working on a project with a friend the past month, and we've been asking people to share prayers with us that have been meaningful to them. One of my professors shared a number of prayers that are traditionally prayed right before one falls asleep. What really struck me about these prayers was the way they all likened sleep to death and waking to resurrection. And I appreciate that imagery so much because in the daily rhythms of waking and sleeping and waking, I find myself keenly aware of my participation in the larger rhythm humanity finds itself in: living and dying and waiting to rise.
For the past few days, I've tried to be deliberate about keeping these things in mind as I fall asleep. So, as I turn off the lights and lay in the dark, I think about the darkness of death. And as I try to calm my racing thoughts and surrender myself to sleep, I think about the stillness of death that I will some day be forced to surrender to. I know that as I lay there asleep, I will no longer be able to protect myself like I do in my waking hours, and I entrust myself to the hands of God, knowing that my very life rests in Him. And I try to find myself in the story that we're all found in.
What amazes me about all this, though, is the way I wake up. The first time I tried falling asleep like this, the first thought to enter my mind the next morning was, I'm alive...I'm alive. After I got out of bed, I took a walk in the brisk autumn air, and as I walked the trail and watched the sun shine through the trees, my breath was taken away, and all I could think was, "Oh God, I'm alive!"
It was a small thing, I know, but I caught a glimpse of the resurrection. And the entire day, I was awed by the fact that I was breathing, thinking, seeing, feeling...living. And as I went to lay down that night, returning my thoughts to humanity's weakness and helplessness, I couldn't help but think more about our participation in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ; the life that will await us in the morning; and the life that will call us even from our graves.