(Just kidding, I don’t have any idea how to do that.)
On Sunday I saw in the bulletin that we would be giving one another a baptismal blessing, and I did a quick mental calculation of whether it would be possible for me to remain seated rather than going to the front to bless and be blessed. I believe that these rituals are important, that it is the job of community to affirm for one another our place in the family of God. But I find them difficult. They prey on my introversion and anxiety and general awkwardness, not to mention that years of altar calls make me wary about getting anywhere near the front of the church during a service.
But I believe in community and baptism and renewal, so I took my turn.
You are God’s beloved child, the woman in front of me said as she traced the sign of the cross on my palm with water from the bowl. In turn, I repeated the action on the woman in line behind me. You are God’s beloved child, we told each other down the line, over and over.
In college, it was common to focus retreats and Bible studies on identity, specifically identity in Christ. We would read lists taken from scripture to one another. You are the salt of the earth. You are the city on a hill. I was never quite sure what sort of difference that might be supposed to make in my life, but there were other people who were clearly feeling it. So I obligingly read the lists about being a citizen of heaven and a member of a royal priesthood and, yes, a child of God. I made up an answer when I was asked which one meant the most to me. I listened as others discussed the finer points of what it means to be blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing. The words were all around, but they never touched my heart. Nobody ever mentioned a Bible verse about that.
On Sunday, I dashed back to my seat and sat in the pew and watched my friends and fellow church members bless one another. Over and over they passed the blessing, silly and serious in turns. You are God’s beloved child. You are God’s beloved child.
I inwardly chided myself for always being such a mess, then reminded myself that my own beloved child is a bit of a mess. Maybe being loved while also being a mess is kind of the point.