A milestone shows the distance one has traveled or may be how far one has to go.
My mom leads children's ministry at her churchusing faith milestones to celebrate, support, and encourage how far children have traveled in their spiritual development within families. She organizes events to celebrate baptism, learning the Lord's Prayer, getting your first Bible, and moving from the Children's Ministry program to the Jr. High and Confirmation program. As I've listened to her talk about the events and theory behind it, I've fallen in love with the concept. So much of one's spiritual development is personal, but having the church recognize signification milestones, especially in children's faith development is awesome.
But inevitably, I turn to myself. I'm 29, a life-long Christian. I hold an MA in Exegetical Theology. Theoretically, I have a lot of milestones with which I could count my spiritual development. But lately, I've only been focusing on one:
I was baptized shortly after I was a month old. My parents and my sponsors made the pledges of faith for me and promised to bring me up in the Christian faith. I don't think it's pride to say they've succeeded, indeed my pride is in the example and instruction they provided me regardless of how well I've lived it out.
My family celebrated my brother's and my baptism birthdays in small ways, with songs, lighting the candle as a child--less so as a teen. There's a banner that I hung in our apartment, that previous was hung in my bedroom. My mom wrote about my baptism story in a publication called Happy Times, that I still have tucked away. The artist portrayed her with a mullet--sigh the 80s.
As I moved into adulthood, I remembered my baptism. Haphazardly maybe. Not with the regularity I read about from Luther or in my other theological texts. But I've learned to rest in my baptism in an effort to stave off perfectionism. (It kind of works.) My baptism is a fact. It means that I know Christ died for my sins, that he has washed them away, that I can have a relationship with God.
But that gets lost in the highway ephemera--the day-to-day drudge of living a life that doesn't have daily chapel, religion classes or even theology classes (which may or may not be a spiritual exercise depending on how you look at it). While I go to church every Sunday, even when I don't want to, and attend bible studies, my faith and my baptism are not daily on my mind.
On one hand, it's okay. Just like I don't have to keep the 10 commandments, pray continually, always be kind and loving to everyone, or on the whole be perfect to be assured of my salvation; neither do I have to remember my baptism. But I want to remember that that I don't have to, that my baptism is the reason I don't have, that the grace given to me from that moment makes the donthaveto's into wantto's.
And so I've return to childhood. Well, the childhood of my mom's Children's Ministry kids. In February, after hearing for years about the baptism tub clings the kids would make during the Splash Event, I asked for one. And Mom sent it with my birthday gift. 5 minutes with some colored sharpies and I have my own baptism cling. (I put Mike's baptism on there too.) And it's been hanging in my shower for the past 6 months.
It's been a remarkably successful way to remind my baptism at least once a day. Often I'll sing "God's Own Child, I Gladly Say It" even though I only know a half verse. Last week, I finally looked up the words and wrote down the first two verses to waterproof and put in the shower as well. Though I might take them out again, I like the freedom of remembering my baptism without having to memorize more words.
So for now, my milestone is my baptism. Certainly, I've developed in the faith given to me at baptism and there are plenty of milestones I can look back on to see how far I've come (and how far I have to go). But baptism is. And I don't want to be far away from that milestone.
This post is part of an online writing adventure at Via Scribendi.