In my life there have been a handful of moments in which God has seemed to be holding up a mirror and asking me to see myself for who I am. These moments have either changed my course in life or affirmed it.
For instance, several years ago I had lunch with a young friend who was trying to figure out how to make sense of a difficult work situation. As I got into my car afterwards to drive home, I was thinking that she was on a kind of hero’s journey, and that she would have to face the monsters both inside of herself and without. Suddenly I saw my own part in the story. I was just the obscure old lady whose parlor the hero stumbled into. I was a catalyst for her, and I had a few tools that heroes might find helpful. My job had been to offer them and send her on her way.
A few days after that my priest called me to tell me that one of my fellow parishioners would love to help fund my training as a spiritual director. Seemingly out of the blue, this offer affirmed my new understanding. God was guiding me. Benet Hill Monastery’s Global Online Spiritual Direction Training had been on my radar for a while. I got in touch with them, and, though my application came in late, the sisters approved it. I was signed up for a couple of years of learning and growing that would begin pretty much immediately.
Jesus’ baptism seems like a similar sort of moment. God holds up a mirror. “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased,” says God, and Jesus is set on the path of living out his purpose as the Messiah.
Who knows how Jesus thought of himself before that. Perhaps he had known he was really different, really special, but had no idea what to do with that information. Maybe he had just lived out his first-half-of-life obligations. Adulthood started earlier in those days, and he would have been working for over fifteen years by then. Maybe, In a kind of midlife crisis, he came out to the edge of the world to see what the strange prophet, John the Baptizer, could tell him. He left with an astounding sense of who he was.
We ought not minimize the power of baptism. Jesus made the decision to die to his old self-understanding. We might say he never had anything to repent, but he did choose this ritual. He chose to renounce the attitudes and perspectives of this world in favor of the realm of God.
It worked. God found the moment God had been looking for, the moment of mirroring Jesus to himself, that sent him on to fulfill his destiny.
There are so many distractions these days. Have you noticed? A billion ways to lose yourself in the group-think of our culture present themselves at every moment. Our phones are full of “news” and “human interest” links. Our computers blast us with advertising.
Where can God shoehorn a way into our perceptions to hold up the mirror of God’s vision of who we are? This is not an easy question to answer, but answer it we must. Where do we give God room to speak? Where do we fall again into transformational baptismal waters to listen?