Nine year old Lucia steps down into the baptismal tank and then up onto a stool placed there specially for her. I can't keep tears from spilling as I listen to her soft, confident voice declaring that Jesus is her Lord and her Saviour and she will follow him all of her days.
It’s a season of new things. For us in the northern hemisphere, the beach is being left behind as children pack new notebooks into new bookbags and head off to a new grade. In the southern hemisphere, spring is in the air.
A baptism, a birth, a wedding: any season of new things is an invitation to celebrate newness in our own life (we are new creations!), to reaffirm commitments once made and to know the joy of being alive and loved all over again.
As I gear up to co-lead a community group and prepare to start the next level of training to accompany people in their lives of faith, I’m excited—and often very aware of my inadequacy. And so as I step into newness with its mix of delight and excitement and trepidation, I’m pausing to watch the smile on the face of my Creator as he formed me, pausing to listening to his affirmations spoken then and spoken again now.
He speaks as a parent to a beloved child, reminding me that I can’t flunk out of his love, that I am precious just because he brought me into being, not because of anything I do or don't do. That he is with me.
The truths are simple, but I need to hear them again and again, in every season, as I prepare to step through fear into something new, or in the middle when the journey is long. Fear fades here as I listen to God whisper his love and sing his delight and tenderly shows his care.
“I’m glad you are you.” I look up into his smiling face. Hearing him speak this over me makes it much easier for me to affirm, “I’m glad I’m me too.”
“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!” (Ps 139:13-14, The Message)
“You belong here.” Here, first and always, in his love. But also here in this city, this church, this training program. Here writing this blog post, this book, walking alongside these particular people.
“Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day. (Ps 139:16)
“I love you and I care for you willingly.”
“Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? . . . Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.” (Luke 12:27-28, 32)
As I watch Lucia and wipe tears from my eyes, I’m sitting in the pew in my dream dress, the long navy one with the flowers and the white beadwork that looks like it was made for me. The one God provided for $8 at Value Village a few weeks ago. I was going to save it to wear first at my graduation, but when I looked in the closet yesterday it called out to me to wear it, to share in God's joy of loving me and providing for me. And so I wore it and savored all day the feeling that God was cherishing me, that he was celebrating all over again the memory of dreaming me and knitting me together, that he was delighting in newness, in love, in me! as we step together into this year.
Love that delights in each of his children like this—this is a love I can trust.
Photo by Chris Watts. Affirmations in bold from Clarke and Dawson, Growing Up Again.