I was baptized when I was a six month old child — marked as Christ’s own forever. It was 1952, and that was what parents did, even if one of them was a violently anti-Christian atheist.
When I was around four I went to a Missouri Synod Lutheran Sunday School, where I learned that I would burn in hell eternally if I sinned. In my concrete way of thinking I was certain this meant I was doomed to everlasting torture. After all, who can avoid sin? I used to lie awake at night, terrified of dying.
But we moved around a lot when I was growing up, and this early training was replaced by a long, dry spell. We hardly went to church at all. My mother taught me bedtime prayers — rhymes and intercessions — and the Lord’s Prayer, of course.
I came early and naturally to the notion of evolution but never saw any conflict between this theory and the Christian story. It always seemed to me that God’s time was different from ours. Why was everyone so fixated on literal days?
In high school and college I resonated with the ancient myths and stories of the world, loved the Hindu gods, especially Ganesh and Shiva, practiced shrine-making. Rubbing elbows with local Tibetan Buddhists, I learned to meditate and to use a Tibetan image as a tool to facilitate a change of consciousness. I learned about the Dali Lama and yak butter tea. Later I discovered a Gurjief group and followed that practice for awhile, until the gnosticism made my soul ache.
I studied the psychology of C.G. Jung, went into analysis, and then became a professional psychotherapist. I worshiped for a decade or so with the Society of Friends. Then I found my way back into the Episcopal Church. I came for the Eucharist.
Through all of this I was Christ’s. I’m with Richard Rohr when he says that the Soul is a God-seed (The Universal Christ, 2019). We are constantly in dialogue with that deep center within that is growing us into “what we will become” (1 John 3:2.) The Soul kept showing me visions and practices, rounding off rough edges and pushing me into new understandings. In this way God gave me the food for becoming what Christ would have me be.
We know in our bones what baptism is. It is death. It is the end of the world’s rights over us. For Jesus, as he sank into the dark waters of the Jordan, whatever had gone before in his life was finished. “This my Son, the Beloved,” said the heavenly voice, and Jesus was marked and claimed forever, to be the Christ.
Baptism is the sign of our belonging to the realm of God. The convoluted journey of becoming that is guided by the Soul and that draws us ever nearer to God’s dream for us finds resonance in the imagery of giving ourselves to the water. We die there. We are reborn there. We push our way up, into our unique destiny as sons and daughters of God. We are the beloved possessed by the Beloved, marked as Christ’s own forever.
Image from the catacombs at San Callisto.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer, writer and spiritual director living in Fort Colllins, Colorado. For a little more about her, go to everydaymysteries.com.