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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Gasping for life�

I wasn't there for my godson's birth — although I had been invited — but I was there for his rebirth. After each dunk he was raised lovingly out of the water by his brave pastor-mama who had, in essence, drowned him in the ample font. What an act of faith. Three times he went completely under the water — in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit — and three times he emerged only a bit stunned. As the cloud of witnesses held their breath, he drew in the Trinity of Love in three hungry gasps.

The sound of his urgent gasps for air was familiar. I heard it once before when my mom took her last three breaths. I wonder now if she was bearing witness one last time to the source of her life — Father, Son and Spirit. I imagine Mary heard the same urgency in her son's final breaths on the cross. But it wasn't life he was drawing into himself. It was our brokenness that he pulled into his body with each final breath. And when the breath stopped — as my godson's did three brief times — and then started again, Life was made possible.

As I stood next to the font that day and watched my godson being offered to God in this dramatic way, as I heard him named "child of God" and claimed for the sake of Christ in the world, I pondered my role as godmother. Was I ready? How would I be a partner in rearing this child in the Christian faith? I knew his parents would bring him to church regularly. And his congregation, along with his faithful parents, would teach him the Lord's Prayer, the creeds and the Ten Commandments. I knew he'd be presented with a Bible, even before many children are. As I checked off the list of promises one remained: instruction in the Christian faith.

Faith is caught, not taught. Now, two years later, I realize that my promise to be an instructor in the Christian faith is more about living faithfully with my godson as an apostle of Jesus Christ and less about teaching him any particular thing. From the moment of baptism on, buoyed by the witness of the community as it shares in the nourishment of Christ's body, I am made ready to reveal the cruciform pattern of my life with my godson. The truth is that my life is neither entirely consistent nor ramblingly chaotic but full of contradictions needing reconciliation. I will live honestly and truthfully with him, and pray that my life will be a sign of hope for him that opposites are always held together by grace. When he finds himself at cross-purposes, I'll be there to remind him to breathe, for it is in the journey of death and rebirth throughout our life that we learn who God is for us.


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