January 29, 2008

The Truest Truth

Singing this song is what life is about
And if you refuse the stones will cry out
We do not sing that we might be more blessed
He loves us with passion, without regret
He cannot love more, and will not love less

Michael Card, from the album Joy in the Journey

I invite you, beloved, to greet this new day now before you with a fresh awareness that the mark of Jesus Christ on your head (also known as your baptism) is, in point of fact, a marker for the truest truth about you.

After all, by the time your feet hit the morning floor, a half dozen or more other truths will likely have thrust themselves right back into your life. Indeed, it seems sometimes as if during the night they huddle together for warmth at the foot of your bed. Reawakened with sunup, they reappear, quite ready to tag along with you through another day.

It might well be true, for instance, that among your friends or relations there is an absolute porcupine of a person, whose familiar histrionics always seem to monopolize your thoughts and steal your joy.

Or it may be true that lately you go to work each day to face a bureaucratic jungle as unalterable as it is unfruitful. Despite your virtuous intentions, you may well feel that your diligent labors usually wind up in a quagmire that feels like nearly-dried glue.

It may be true that every now and then you feel in your bones some ancient ache, some long-ago-placed bookmark in your story that will not turn you lose. It may well be true that something old is preventing anything new.

It may be true that you find yourself in a tenuous marriage. Many do. Lashed fast to one who with each new season has become even more of a perfect stranger, it may not be clear to you how even another month like this would be tenable.

Or it may be true that, despite all the alternative evidence introduced by the jury of your peers, you still feel that you are basically a contemptible bastard. Besides, you know yourself better than anyone does, thank you very much. It may well be that you have felt this way for so long that this is the only filter through which all other input passes.

It may be true that you are living much of your life in trepidation: Afraid of being exposed; afraid of not being exposed.

It may be true that another morning adds one more tick to a tally of days without someone you dearly love being in this world. You may well feel from time to time that it would have been better never to have loved at all than to carry on in an airless vacuum such as this.

It may be that you are running out of steam. It may well be that you already have.


It is said of old Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer, that at the top of the day and in moments of despair, the tetchy old German believer would place his hand on his forehead and say to himself, "I am baptized. I am baptized."

Try that today. It's somewhat of a ridiculous act, I know. Then again, all the holy ones are. But I also know, because I hear tell, just how many tenacious truths go swirling about our lives on any given day—my list above, a mere sampling.

So you might just try pushing back a little on the stubborn facts of your life; push back with some alternative truth. Reconsider today that you—particular, peculiar, implausible you—have been marked as belonging to God's own Beloved, and that therefore you are "beloved" as well (Matthew 3:17; Ephesians 5:1). Remind yourself that nothing about this day can unbind you from that same grace that brought this day to pass in the first place (Romans 8). Touch your forehead and recall that you have been bought with a price; your own story, swept up in the matchless drama of the gospel (1 Corinthians 6:20). His groaning defeat on a Friday, his astounding triumph on a Sunday suggest, among several truths, that in your life there are now no graves too deep nor hopes too high wherein God's inviolable love cannot be found working, however subtly, to make all things new (Romans 6:4; Revelation 21).

"I am baptized. I am baptized."

It turns out that a curious bit of tap water on your forehead marks the truest truth about you. And as long as we are being ridiculous, go ahead and imagine the risen Christ standing at the foot of your aforementioned sunlit bed. "You will know the truth," he is want to say. "And that truth will set you free." (John 8:32)