Spiritual director – probation officer

Sometimes I feel like my spiritual director is my probation officer. I have to check on with her every month to see how I’m doing. That makes it sound like I don’t know how I’m doing, or like I’m going to the doctor for a checkup. It is kind of both.

A spiritual director is kind of like a guru. Their goal is “intimacy with God”, and while that is pretty nebulous, it is a good goal. If any minister I’d ever had over me talked like she did, I’d still be in church. But sometimes it is really hard work. It is one on one, for an hour. It is really intense.

I feel awkward going. She cuts right through the muck, like a laser. She sees through my veils and obstacles that I put up, voluntarily and involuntarily.

Sometimes I hide. There are some things that I know we disagree on, like salvation. I don’t feel that Jesus came to save us. I feel that Jesus came to tell us that we aren’t broken and don’t need to be saved. There is a huge difference here. I know that I differ from mainline Christianity in this. I also know that I’m in alignment with the words of Jesus in my belief. So I keep on saying it in my blog. She and I, however, we butt heads over it. She says we are broken. I say that Jesus says we are as good as we are going to be and that is good enough.

I also feel that she’s holding back in telling me things. I’m the kind of person who needs explicit instructions, and I feel that she’s the kind of person who wants me to figure it out on my own. Perhaps she feels that if she tells me something that I should be experiencing, that I’ll fake it. Kind of like how if you read about a particular disease, you might feel like you have the symptoms and you don’t. Or like if you explain something a certain way, it will frame that experience for that person. I feel she wants me to have my own experiences.

I dread going almost every month, but this month is worse. After going, I immediately want to go again. Then a month later when it is time to go, I don’t want to at all. I think I don’t know what to talk about. I think that whatever I’ve experienced isn’t enough. I’m pretty sure I’m doing it all wrong.

Am I cheating, by wanting to skip? Am I falling to the wayside, or am I on the right path?

I’d like to work on the manuscript for my book. I’d like to catch up on sleep. I’d like to paint. Wednesday mornings are nice – I don’t have to go in to work until the afternoon. If I go visit her, I lose a lot of that time. It is only once a month, though.

Sometimes rules help, sometimes they hurt. What rule am I following here? Go once a month regardless? Do it automatically? Or feel it out? Discipline is the root of “disciple” after all.

Part of it is realizing that she works for me, not the other way around. I pay her for her services. It is like using a personal trainer, but for your soul. It is really weird and really awesome.

This month I decided to cancel. And I’m glad I did. I feel that if it is a choice, it is easier. God loves a cheerful giver, after all. If I go because I feel I have to go, then I’m missing the point. But then I also know that if I slack off too much I’ll get out of line/habit/practice. Order is important to me.

It is all a balancing act. Order / freedom. I chose order, of my free will. But too much order starts to feel stifling.

Water and Words – on infant baptism.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’m against infant baptism. I’m cool with some ceremony where the parents commit to raising the child as a Christian, and ask for the help of the Church to keep them on track.

But I don’t get the purpose of actually baptizing their child.

There are way too many people who get their child baptized and then leave the church. There are also stories of grandparents who are concerned that neither parent is Christian. They take the child to a church on the weekend they have the kid and get her baptized, unbeknownst to the parents. There are also stories of parents whose child is gravely ill and they ask for an emergency baptism.

In all these instances they aren’t planning on raising the child as a Christian. There is something else going on. Do they think that there is something magical and protective that happens when a child is baptized with water?

Jesus never baptized anybody with water. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to his disciples after he ascended into heaven. The water is just a symbol. It isn’t the real thing. It is the commitment to following Jesus that matters. We need ceremonies to let us know that a change has occurred. We need ceremonies like we need doorways, to show us transition and evolution. Baptism is a ceremony, but it marks a change that occurs within the person. Just pouring water on someone and saying some words doesn’t make them a follower of Jesus.

It seems like idol worship for people to baptize their children. It seems like they think that words and water will do the trick. It seems like they think that that is all there is to it. Get baptized, and you’re in the club.

But baptism should be a choice of the person, not something done to you. I think that deciding to follow Jesus is too important for someone to do it for you. It is like deciding to be vegetarian. That is a major choice. Your parents may think that being vegetarian is something that you should do for your own good, much like following Jesus. But if you aren’t in agreement with it, you aren’t going to keep doing it once you are out of their house.

Then again, you can get baptized with water and it doesn’t mean anything. You still aren’t connected, you still don’t get it. It isn’t the water or the words. It is the Holy Spirit that makes it work.

The Holy Spirit baptizes. That is like being upgraded from a 110 to a 220, like being transformed from a garden hose to a fire hose. It is overwhelming. When you’ve been touched by the Holy Spirit you are never the same again.

Let us stop baptizing children. They aren’t able to make that decision, and it is too important for it to be made for them. Let us remember that God is the one who saves us, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It isn’t the water. It isn’t our words.