Our son, Shane, will be baptized into the Episcopal Church next month, on All Saints’ Day. As preparation, our rector asked us to read Anne E. Kitch’s Taking the Plunge: Baptism and Parenting. I am enjoying this book’s accessible yet profound presentation of the values that I hope to pass on to our son. In the passage below, Kitch interprets the baptismal vow to accept Jesus as our savior. I couldn’t have written a better description of what I believe about Jesus, and how I’ve relied on his love at a deeper level since becoming a parent.
Not everyone feels the need for a personal God, or is able to believe that God would take on human form. But as for me, I keep turning to Jesus because I want to believe that the fundamental structure of the universe is relational, loving, and good. I’ll be audacious, ungrateful some would say, and insist that it’s not enough that the universe is mysterious, complex, and beautiful. For what is most important in human life? What do I most want to give my son, and hope that he will manifest in the world? Love, justice, and truth. Are these qualities anomalies in an impersonal universe, or do they matter outside our little tribe of monkeys? My hoped-for answer to that question is what keeps me in the church, despite my occasional sighing for the simplicity of a life without theological struggles.
Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your savior?
When we turn our backs on Satan, we turn toward Jesus Christ. After all, being a Christian means being a follower of Christ. Who do you turn to? In times of stress and trouble, who do you turn to? Relationships are what give us life. The parenting relationship is what brings you to this baptismal examination. So as a parent, who do you turn to when times are tough? Someone you know will help you no matter what. Someone who doesn’t judge you when you are at your worst. Someone who won’t make you pay for it later. Someone you can trust to see you at the bottom. Someone who has been to the bottom too and knows the way out.
But it’s not only in times of desperation that we turn to others. We also seek out relationships in times of joy. Who do you turn to in times of joy and celebration? Someone who will delight in your gifts. Someone who isn’t envious or competitive. Someone who knows you well enough to understand your joy. Someone who will rejoice with you. Someone who knows what it is to be joyful. Someone who will laugh with you, dance with you, sing with you with abandon.
The point of being a Christian, of believing in Christ, is trusting that Christ is the someone we can turn to. We can turn to Jesus Christ in times of trouble and in times of joy; Christ is the one who will be with us. Christ is the one who has endured human suffering and who can complete our joy. When Jesus sat with his friends around the dinner table, teaching them about God’s promises and love, he said to them, “I have said these things so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). Jesus wants us to be filled with joy.
To say, “Yes, I turn to Jesus Christ,” is to say, “Yes, I know that there lies my hope.” We call Jesus our savior. Simply put, a savior is one who saves. Jesus Christ saves us by knowing us better than anyone else. Just as the best of friends saves us in times of trouble by being the person we can turn to, so Christ saves us, in the worst of times and in the best of times. To accept Jesus Christ as our savior is to be willing to believe that Christ knows and loves us and is always standing by us. Whether we know it or not, whether we are willing to accept it or not, Christ holds out loving arms to enfold us in an embrace. To turn to Jesus Christ as our savior is to be willing to consider the possibility that through Christ’s death and resurrection, we are somehow already saved, that nothing the world dishes out can ultimately destroy us. In the here and now, Christ stands with us in the pain and in the joy. Christ is ready for us, waiting for us to turn and say, “Yes!”