Tuesday, September 6, 2016

My Friend Just Baptized Jesus: An Astounding, Beautiful Reflection on the Atonement

I wrote something once that addressed how much I love having paradoxes in life, which included the following statement: 

Living in and embracing a world of paradox is hard work. I believe, however, it is worth the effort - especially since our theology teaches such an embrace is a necessary, fundamental aspect of becoming like a Father-God who allows and values such paradox. It is the only way I know to walk one's one way within the Church and allow others the same privilege, let them walk however they may.

A friend responded with one of the most beautiful, touching treatise on grace and the Atonement I have ever read. I get tears in my eyes every time I read it. I hope it touches everyone who reads it the same way it touches me. 

He said: 

I agree with you.  A paradox can be a great opportunity for discovery.  
A few weeks ago, I was able to baptize my daughter.  I moved into a new ward in May, and I've been working with my new bishop with the goal of baptizing her.  He knows fully that I don't believe fully in the doctrines of temples, polygamy, "the one true church", the restoration, the Book of Mormon, etc.  He's a lawyer and knows how to ask questions! But, I've been grateful for the way that he probes in our discussions, because it has given him a very clear picture of where I stand with the church.  
I told him that I'd like to baptize my daughter, but I also would feel like a bit of a hypocrite baptizing her into a church that I don't fully support.  I do believe in the doctrine of baptism, so my goal was really to provide that baptism, but with the mindset that she's baptized as Christ was, to fulfill all righteousness, and not because it's a required ritual to join our church.  
The bishop has been very understanding and supportive.  He said that I probably wouldn't be able to give her the gift of the Holy Ghost (which I was okay with), but that I could stand in the circle when that was done, but he encouraged me to baptize my daughter.  Knowing where I stand, and that it's been a long time since I've taken the sacrament (my decision), worn garments, studied the Book of Moron, etc., he still encouraged me to baptize her.  
So, on the day of her baptism, I found myself in the font, with this sweet little innocent 8 year old stepping down into the font to join me, a flawed and imperfect scoundrel, who was now supposed to perform this baptism.  It made me think of how John the Baptist must have been feeling when Christ came to him to get baptized, and he felt like Christ should be the one baptizing him.  
That little paradox helped me get a little glimpse of the mercy that the real gospel offers. An imperfect person, like myself, is allowed to have flaws and faults.  But, as long as I'm trying to be the best person that I can be, I could still join my innocent little girl in that ordinance.  Pretty cool stuff.  
It's really easy to get weighed down with all of the policies and practices that have been implemented by the church.  But when we strip away 'the church,' and just focus on the gospel, the simplicity and beauty of it really is incredible.  Hey, there's another paradox...the church and the gospel.  They are supposed to go hand-in-hand, but it often feels like they're at odds with each other.
That's okay, too.

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