I‘m brushing my teeth, flecks of white spraying the sunny mirror, confetti celebrating new morning, when she crawls up on the toilet, leans into the mirror to find my reflection and ask me straight up, “How do you become a Christian?”
Which is slightly less than conducive for a theological treatise.
I rinse, wash the pearly whites clean, swish again, decide the best way to answer the curl girl’s question might be exactly the Jesus answered questions.
With another question.
Aren’t the answers that strike the deepest the ones our own unlikely lips discover, pull out of thin air?
“Shalom,” I tap the toothbrush dry on the side of the sink, porcelain knocking at today. I still haven’t found my glasses amidst the teetering stack of books on my bedside stand so I have to peer into her face, her one shake of seven freckles peppering her nose. “You tell me, Shalom… How do you become a Christian?”
I want to think I’ve fulfilled my parental calling, that she knows this one and this is a test more of my own mothering than of her four-year-old mind. But nose to that sun-kissed nose, I’ve got to concede: “Do I even know?”
What is it to become a Christian? Aren’t I still, even now, always, becoming Who I really am? Whose I really am?
What I used to think of as a four-line prayer on the back of a Billy Graham tract I now see as oceanic, cosmic, a decision made with every lugging up of the lungs for breath and it takes a whole life to labor into rebirth.
Lashes dipped gold, she rolls her sapphire eyes and grins sheepish, her head tilted shy. Has she got it? Yes? I smile, tap the end of her button nose, a vending machine tap of the universe for the right answer and maybe the Child can show me the way into the Kingdom?
“So how do you become a Christian?” I set my toothbrush in its cup and turn to her and she looks clear into my canyon depths and before she opens her mouth I feel exposed.
“I know…. ” she touches my cheek in morning light mottled.
“I get it from you.”
I’m not ready for that.
I reel, pull away, glance me in the mirror and I don’t want to see, turn, fold a towel up just straight, breathe through the burn.
She’s got her theology all wrong. And all right.
She’s getting her Jesus from me.
Is that what we’re all doing here? Passing out the crumbs of our Jesus, the Bread of life we’ve been given, to the beggar starving sunken beside us?
And is that why there are fewer and fewer of genuine disciples? Because we who have Bread are indifferent hoarders, letting the masses die? Or because we’re going around passing out cardboard, pseudo-Life, because the ugly truth is that we’ve never tasted of the Real Christ ourselves?
He said those Easter People would receive power when the Holy Spirit came, that we’d be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the table, the ends of the couch, the ends of the street. The ends of the earth. Witnesses who hand out the Real Story. With their whole body.
And I’ve got to ask and I’m the one who has to find my own answers:
What Christ am I witnessing and what Christ do I read of, and where do I see God in my life and Who do I really eat of every Sunday? And is this body of bones wrapped in bluing thin flesh a faithful witness at all to the Truth or do my words twist the Gospel, my hands and my tongue lying outright about Christ, the Messiah?
Doesn’t anyone take the witness stand for the God who laid it all down? Have we not seen? Heard? Touched? Why shrink away? Why lie about it?
I don’t know…. I don’t claim to know.
I just know that the Child’s startling claim that she’s getting her Christianity from me brings me to my knees. It’d better keep me there.
And I know that I’d better be handing out the real Bread — not something that will make her, anyone, soul sick. And maybe the answer is that, whether we realize it or not, every moment is our testimony before a world who has Christ on trial.
When I tenderly gather her up into the lap there on the edge of the tub, I explain what it means, how to break the amniotic waters of new life, or what little I know of the mysteries of being born again, and I feel so small.
She feels along the story for days.
I pray my hands are a better witness than my words.
She prays a sinner prayer on a Tuesday, and we who conceived her bones are bent with her, midwives for the second birthing. I pull her close, kiss her forehead fresh with heaven’s scent and I whisper into curls, “The angels have seen this, Shalom, the angels bear witness. The angels have a party today.”
On her new day one, we make angel cookies, her and I, of the wheat kernels fallen to the ground, gathered and ground fine, angel cookies for the angel party, for the lost sheep found, celebration for the long delivery begun.
And I bear witness to her splitting smile, the Christ Alive and bits of the heavens fallen quiet across the greening earth, the blue periwinkles, the dark violets, the dandelion suns.
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Photos: the ‘stone eggs’ from Kenya and Ten Thousand Villages that we are leaving out to remind us to be the Easter People… our Angel Party
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