Conversion of St. Paul, 2016
Dear little one,
You are not yet two and yet we consider you a full member of Christ’s body. You were baptized as an infant and now partake weekly of Communion. Last Sunday, in fact, you asked for “more yummy water” after your tiny sip of wine. Five years ago, while at Baptist seminary, I would have been appalled hearing of such a thing (let alone of my own offspring!).
Your grandma always tells me that Baptists always make the best Anglicans. This is sensible, of course, (and applies to many traditions) because making a shift like Baptist to Anglican takes some deliberation and intention. And, one becomes fairly invested in such a decision (especially if it causes heartache or dissension within their close relationships).
Your father and I, of course, wonder what you will do as you mature and choose your own way. We grew up raising our hands to the latest CCM worship song and always worrying about whether our last salvation experience really got us saved. Will you reject what we have chosen– infant baptism and hymnals and corporate old English prayers? Will new trendy worship songs and spontaneous prayers refresh your individual faith that had been “buried in liturgy and dead traditionalism?”
I hope you know that whatever happens, we just yearn and pray that you will follow God all the days of your life, that you will love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and your neighbor as yourself. And, we pray that we would know how to love you well, you with all your individuality and glory. As we have told concerned close ones, we clearly do not believe that baptizing you as an infant is an automatic “get to heaven free” card. You have to choose this way, the narrow way. And you have to keep choosing it. As St. Paul tells us throughout his epistles, you have “been saved,” you are “being saved,” and you “will be saved.”
Today, we celebrate the Conversion of St. Paul. I grew up believing that his dramatic Damascus Road experience was normative for Christians. I remember how many times I heard other young people share their testimony “I grew up in a Christian family” as though it were an apology. I hope that you never feel apologetic for not having a dramatic testimony and that you never feel like you need to create one either. But at the same time, I hope that your father and I do not overreact to our background, full of so much good. Instead of only emphasizing our corporate experience within the church, I pray that we can foster in you that story-telling spirit that glories in telling about God’s grace to individual sinners, “of whom I am the worst.”
One of the aspects that your father and I most love about Anglicanism is that we can embrace the goodness of “all branches of Christ’s Church” and learn from them. I am so thankful that you will have the voices of your Baptist grandparents in your life, who will constantly remind you of the reality that, while we have differences, we are so very unified because we all love Jesus. I pray that their testimonies will always remind your father and I of the importance of fostering in you that understanding of individual choice (that, of course, is not foreign to Anglicanism), in addition to the reality that you have been grafted into a larger story.
And when you do tell your individual story, I pray that the telling wouldn’t start with your little life’s beginning in 2014. I hope that by raising you within the rich traditions of our faith, you will know that your story starts at the very beginning of all time, that it finds its climax in the life, death, and resurrection of a God-man named Jesus of Nazareth, which is then reechoed a thousandfold by the stories of the saints, your family in the faith. For your own story just recapitulates in a glorious individual way the shape of God’s ways in the world; you, too, were “dead in your transgressions and sins” and “made alive with Christ.” And I hope that you know that every story you hear of God’s grace in the world is also part of your story, whether the drugs-to-Jesus testimony of your grandmother or the “I grew up in a Christian family” story of your mother or the conversion of St. Paul himself; for “we are members of one another.”
Dear little girl, I know every parent is full of such high aspirations and that we will fail you and that our intentions will misfire and you’ll have your own baggage. But I also know that God’s hand is upon you, that His mighty angels guard you, and that you are so loved by so many beautiful Christian family members and friends.
Like St. Paul, may the beauty of Christ’s light transform and convert your heart and may you seek His face always.