Rite of Passage
By: Emily Meeks
“You don’t have to run anymore,” the attendant said as I stepped onto the ferry. Sweat glued my shirt to my back. The curl from hot rollers, leveled. I turned to see the pedestrian ramp lift up and retract. No more passengers could load from Bainbridge Island.
I replayed the last ten minutes of my commute when I realized I wouldn’t make the Seattle sailing if I kept walking. My heart raced as I felt both paralyzed and propelled at once.
I felt my feet on the boat. I noticed the horizon wrapped around the water. I would make the passage.
“You don’t have to run anymore.”
The attendant’s words continued to linger. I’m a long distance runner at heart, finding the mileage of a marathon cathartic and these words surprised me. They brought comfort, rest and assurance. As I walked laps on the upper deck, I began to think figuratively about times when I run to and from things that take energy unnecessarily.
A few days later I went backpacking with friends, a mix of old and new. The trip started off as planned, winding through old growth forest and eating lunch by a rushing river. We had imagined holding morning and evening prayer around an alpine lake and enjoying post-hike conversations that lingered around the camp stove. Instead, mosquitoes forced quick shove-in-your-face meals with liturgies held from our tents. The bugs were so bad that there was talk of returning early, and secretly, I hoped for that possibility.
Together, we pushed through and encouraged each other to remember our reasons for coming. On a day hike from base camp, we reached a higher pass, which created space for a draft to come through and give reprieve from the bugs. We sat in awe of the alpine backdrop and exchanged roundtable questions.
“Do you like yourself?” someone posed to the group. The chatter stopped.
Here, sitting at 7,200 ft. elevation with views of alpine lakes and jagged peaks, a teacher, an editor, a physical therapist, a pediatric nurse, a travel manager, and a marketing manager — all independent young adults but no one answered yes or even anything at all. Slowly we started chipping away at the silence with questions back. We considered how saying “yes” can be challenging because we see our shortcomings in focus. Perhaps liking ourselves could be easier to affirm if we didn’t give primary identity to our weaknesses or allow that to give distance to what is good.
On the following Sunday I stepped into the ambo to read the second lesson, a reading from 2 Peter 1:13-21. Peter’s words recall the transfiguration when the voice from the cloud says, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” — these same words spoken from heaven at Jesus’ baptism. Later in the service we joined three new members of our Saint Mark’s community in affirming our baptismal covenant around the font.
“You don’t have to run anymore.”
I feel my feet grounding and my heart rate slowing. I think of six young adults sitting on rock slabs on a mountaintop finding respite from mosquitoes and encouragement on the trek. I feel the water sprinkled into the pews as the priests asked each of us to remember our own baptism too.
I, we, are marked as Christ’s own, belonging and beloved completely as we are. We need each other to remind ourselves on the days and in the times it can be challenging and the conditions not ideal. Even when frazzled or riddled with mosquito bites, I can claim God’s belovedness and rest in the knowledge of this love and presence that will never be outrun. I have made the passage.