Can you imagine waking up with no identity, no sense of who you are? I’m not saying you wouldn’t have a memory of life, just no label such as mother, father, student, liberal, conservative, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim…atheist.
Every day we wake-up, we have an innate understanding of who we are through the day’s activities. Our actions define us to other people and ourselves. Sometimes we like the labels that are handed to us by virtue of our birth such as ethnicity or race. These acquired labels can be just as burdensome if they result in ostracism or discrimination.
I have found an odd comfort in knowing that I was baptized into a Christian faith at the young age of 3 years old. My mother thought it important enough to have me baptized. This undoubtedly meant more to her than it did to me at the time. But I have always carried with me place holder in my life. It is a feeling that I can renew this baptism label at anytime if I so desired.
Measles vaccine and baptisms
It was also interesting that my mother kept my measles vaccination card in the same envelope as the baptismal and confirmation certificates. Could it be that baptism is an inoculation against sin and disease of the soul? Another observation on the baptismal certificate is that they used my mother’s maiden name for her middle name when it was really Emily. (Click images to enlarge)
Our family attended church up through the time that I was confirmed. As our family unit disintegrated, church lost the binding effect of keeping us together. As I trekked through life, always curious about religion, there was always a small part of me that identified with having been baptized. Even though it had no bearing on my actions, it was always in the background of my identity.
Engaging your faith
I certainly understand that many people feel ashamed, betrayed or indifferent to the religious sacraments and rituals they endured as a child. Those experiences ultimately color our life and outlook. As I explored my faith more I began to realize that being baptized had no particular impact unless I decided to engage it.
A special gift
My baptism, and to a lesser extent my confirmation, has been more like a door into another part of life. I can choose to open the door or ignore it. There is no special spirituality bestowed upon me by virtue of being baptized. However, there is the recognition that I was given a small gift to open when I felt the time is right. This is the gift that my mother gave me and could not be taken away even with her passing. She gave me the gift of baptism out of love that it might be of some value to me in the future.
A new identity
We gave the gift of baptism to our son when he was less than a year old. And like my own family, we have drifted away from regular church attendance after he was confirmed. I know that he understands the tenets of the Christian faith and I suppose he has a small identity with it. At some point in the future I hope he will look upon his baptism as I do as an invitation to explore his faith.