Daily Office Readings for Friday, July 6, 2018:
“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption.” Paul’s words in our Epistle today about a “spirit of adoption” really caught my attention , because, you see, I spent the first twelve years of my life with a different last name until I convinced my mom and my stepdad I wanted the same name they had. Even though they had been married since the day before my second birthday, they never really thought much about it until I pressed the issue.
When I was growing up, divorce was less common and it was definitely the minority to have a last name different than one’s parents. I can remember in grade school feeling a certain sense of shame when my folks came to activities and got introduced with a different last name. I also lived in a time people made statements to kids that today, we’d consider offensive. When I would start up talking about wanting to have the same last name as my parents, I can remember well-meaning but totally off-base friends of my folks, and my relatives patting me on the head and saying, “Don’t worry–someday you’re going to meet some nice man and marry him, and you’ll take HIS last name.” (I can remember responding to one of them with an angry “I’M NEVER MARRYING ANYONE AND I’M NEVER TAKING SOME MAN’S LAST NAME! I want THIS last name!”…and getting taken to task by my grandmother for it…Out of the mouths of babes…)
I think the day my folks took me seriously about doing the legal work for my stepdad to adopt me was the day I gave them the $35 I had saved collecting deposit bottles to help pay for it. (At two cents a bottle, that’s a LOT of bottles.) Eventually they caved in, and eventually we all had the same last name. I remember how excited I was that finally, I was not the odd one out. I belonged. Where I come from, it’s common to ask someone after you’ve met them, “Who are your people?” There are a lot of family names in the area that are common, and, for better or worse, it’s a way to size up a person’s background. I could now answer who my people were without a long, drawn out pedigree. I realized in most things, nothing had changed in our family dynamics–but the whole business of being adopted changed who I was to the world. I could more easily show I belonged.
The need to belong is deeply ingrained in the human psyche, and I think Paul tapped into that depth when he connected the Christian life with belonging to Jesus. To live deeply into the Christian faith is to consciously decide to belong to Jesus in a way that shows–just like how our last names show who we are to the world. It’s a big step to move from simply saying, “I believe in Jesus,” or “I admire Jesus,” or “I think Jesus was a prophet and all around great guy,” to saying, “I belong to Jesus.” Ultimately, though, I believe the way we move to living a life filled with the peace that passes all understanding, is to know we belong to Jesus in a way so connected, we never doubt that sense of belonging any more than we doubt who our relatives are.
It’s also why we need to go the extra mile in our church communities with baptisms and confirmations and the various rites in which we are commissioned to ministries or re-commit our lives to serving Christ. I make a point of doing brief commissioning liturgies in our parish for new vestry members, altar guild members, etc., because it’s a way we share that sense of belonging, that spirit of adoption, that sense that we really belong to Jesus, even when serving our parishes in myriad ways.
Everyone wants to belong–it’s that simple!
What does feeling secure in “belonging to Jesus” look like to you?
Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri as Interim Pastor at Church of the Good Shepherd and Chaplain of the Community of St. Brigid, both in Town and Country, MO.