I find it amusing that, as word-oriented as I am, my brain compulsively works in pictures. And analogies, but those are yet another form of images—layered on top of one another, in that case.
Sunday morning, in the midst of something quite different, I think:
some come to faith (trust) in Christ all at once, like hatching from a shell;
some come to faith (trust) in Christ imperceptibly but eventually completely, like a snake shedding skin.
We’re in the Big Deal Season of Christian life. Palm Sunday’s jubilation over the rescuer we desperately wanted is steadily tipping toward our anger over being faced on Friday with the rescuer we needed, to find us at last on Sunday standing stunned in front of what that rescue turns out to be.
Many congregations baptize on Easter Sunday, the way the earliest followers did. A big splashy day for big splashy newness: new life in Christ, doubled down. Splashy is joyous, and fun.
Me, though, I’ve not been in a congregation that did that. Nor have I had a big splash of baptism—I was baptized as an infant, my parents and a congregation of three pledging on my behalf. (There was snow; it got complicated; never mind that.)
In high school history, as we studied Puritans and the later Great Awakening, I listened with sharp ears to my foreparents’ concern:
does a child reared breathing Calvinist air get to say: yes, I claim Christ and Christ claims me? If there’s no shock of before/after to stand upon, does it count?
Even then, I sympathized. In what we call conversion, there is a break. When the hatching occurs, the light shines through the cracks, the shell falls away, one stands damp, cold, and trembling in the heretofore unfelt air.
I have had a hatching moment. It is so sharp and clear! The way before and the way after rock apart, and nothing is the same.
It’s just that my hatching-moment had nothing to do with my faith in Christ.
My faith, my trust, is like my cells: always with me, always becoming new, and seldom causing me to notice it.
When I was parent to preschoolers, elbow- or often armpit-deep in physical care, I felt dust-dry. I felt there was no there to me: my inner life, my connection to God was melted away in the heat of daily dailiness. In that season, I went off to what became my annual retreat for a decade, and sat in an hour’s session full of creative, mostly contemplative, worship practices.
What I remember 15+ years later is my rock. We each took a stone from the cache the session-leader brought—rough but smooth ones, not shiny ones—and wrote our word from our time together on it.
I wrote: faith.
I went in thinking I had none. I couldn’t hear God, much less find God, so I decided I had no faith.
In that one session, I came to see that I had faith so deep I didn’t understand it. I saw that someone who, in the middle of sleep deprivation and infinite laundry, keeps thinking, “God, I can’t hear you; speak louder!” is someone whose faith is part of the air she breathes,
the skin on the back of her hands,
within her very cells.
I had worried all along that I didn’t have “it.” That without the splash, nothing had happened.
Instead I had absorbed God’s good news and precious trustworthiness as I grew, cell by cell by cell, shedding the other as I went. Like a snake, I was the same but steadily different,
until I, too, was (am) made new.
I carry that rock still the way I did then, not to remind me to keep the faith,
but to remind me that it’s already there.