Where are you from?

Road Map

I am a perpetual student. I love to learn, and I spent seven years in higher education earning undergraduate and graduate level degrees. Even though I am not currently in a degree program, I continue to read, study, learn and discover new tidbits each and every day. But there was one thing that I couldn’t stand about both of my degree programs.

Orientation Day.

As an introvert, I was exhausted after spending so much time interacting with so many new people during orientation. I met countless new people and heard so many exciting stories during orientation that my head was spinning. But, that wasn’t the problem I had with it. My problem was that every single person I met asked me the same question: Where are you from?

I never could figure out how to answer that question without telling my entire life story to the person who had asked it. Now, in my early thirties, I have lived in seven different states, called at least thirteen different places “home,” attended more schools than I can remember, spent time both in the majority and in the minority, and learned different cultural expressions and values everywhere I’ve lived. The answer to Where are you from? was not one that I could sum up by providing a single location, or by giving an address. If I had answered that question from my heart, I would have said, “I don’t know.”

If you had told me ten years ago that I would find myself as a contributing blogger on That Reformed Blog, I would not have believed it. My theological journey has been much like my journey across the United States. I have spent time in an Episcopal church, a Disciples of Christ church, a Baptist church, a non-denominational church, and now the Reformed Church in America. When you are a nomad, you do not always have the luxury of choosing a church from your preferred denomination. Instead, you may find yourself setting down roots in a tradition that is completely different from anything you had ever known before. The difficulty in that is that finding my theological identity has been like a wrestling match. The benefit is that I have learned that each tradition, each location, each new group of people has something profound to teach me. My job is to learn, to grow, and to become more fully who I was created to be. Sometimes that involves challenging other people to look at things in a different way. Sometimes it means challenging myself to see things with new eyes. Either way, it means growth, change and discovery.

As I have journeyed into the reformed tradition, and have begun to discover what reformed theology is all about, I have come to realize something deeper about myself. My identity is not the compilation of my life experiences. I am not, as Wayne Dyer once suggested we all are, “a sum total of the choices we have made.” I am not my career, my degrees, my hobbies. My truest identity, the core of who I am, is my identity in baptism – my union with Christ, and my place as a member of the family of God.

In the liturgy for baptism in the Reformed Church in America, we find this amazing prayer:

PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.

We give you thanks, O holy and gracious God,
for the gift of water.
In the beginning of creation your Spirit moved over the waters.
In the waters of the flood you destroyed evil.
You led the children of Israel through the sea
into the freedom of the promised land.
In the river Jordan, John baptized our Lord
and your Spirit anointed him.
By his death and resurrection Jesus Christ, the Living Water,
frees us from sin and death and opens the way to life everlasting.

We thank you, O God, for the gift of baptism.
In this water you confirm to us
that we are buried with Christ in his death,
raised to share in his resurrection,
and are being renewed by the Holy Spirit.

Pour out on us your Holy Spirit, so that those here baptized may be washed clean and receive new life.

To you be all honor and glory, dominion and power,
now and forever, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen [1]

In baptism it is confirmed to us that we are buried with Christ. It is confirmed. It’s not an identity we have created, nor is baptism an act where we somehow get God to do what we want God to do. Baptism is a confirmation of work that God has already begun through the Holy Spirit. Our identity in baptism is who we are at the most basic level. It does not matter if we were raised in Wyoming or in Turkey; when we belong to Christ, that is the core of our identity.

I may be a bit of a nomad in this world, and my theological journey may look more like a series of switchbacks and hair-pin turns along a zig-zagging mountain road, but my identity isn’t found in the way I answer Where are you from? My identity is in Christ, the One who was there before the foundation of the world. In the words of a well-loved hymn: “On Christ the solid rock I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.” [2]

Grace and peace to you, no matter where you’re from,

April

April Fiet is ordained in the Reformed Church in America and serves as co-pastor of a congregation in rural Iowa alongside her husband. April has too many hobbies (from crocheting pretty much anything and baking bread, to running 5K races), and she enjoys watching her two young children grow and learn about the world.

__________________________________________________________

[1] “Order for the Sacrament of Baptism”

[2] The Solid Rock, Words: Edward Mote, 1834, Music: William B. Bradbury, 1863.

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6 thoughts on “Where are you from?

  1. April, that was quite insightful. Thanks for your words about our home; Carol and I have been feeling somewhat homesick and nostalgic lately, being kind of isolated by my position as minister to most of the people we know in our new town. Keep up the great writing, you never know who’s going to need to read it, or what they’ll get out of it!

    • Eric, thank you so much for reading and for commenting. I am so encouraged to know that these words on a screen have reached you where you are. In each and every move I’ve taken, there was an adjustment period of 1-2 years where I had to try and figure out who I was in relationship to my new “home.” Sometimes it has led to feelings of isolation and loneliness, other times feelings of anger and resentment, but I always come out on the other side grateful for new experiences.

      I will add you to my prayers. May God provide companionship and others for you to connect with. You aren’t alone – many of us pray for you!

  2. This was a great post April. I love the RCA baptismal liturgy. I don’t think it was until seminary that I truly understood what was going on in baptism, and I’m sure that I even today still don’t quite get it, because I don’t really understand what it looks like to be in union with Christ. I’m very pragmatic and I would like to know what it “looks like”, if such a thing can even be described. In all seriousness, if you were going to define that phrase, “union with Christ”, how would you define it? I will however, never forget what Dr. Bechtel said: “Remember who you are, and remember whose you are.” That much, I know. By the way, I also HATED orientation–the worst three days or however long. It feels like camp, but worse somehow.

    • I love that your drew in Dr. Bechtel! She has imparted so much to me…I’ve got her quotes written in my common book. And it is so true. If we don’t know whose we are, we’re missing the key component of our identity.

      Oh…and what does “union with Christ” look like…I hear you on being pragmatic, and to be honest this is one of those subject areas that I’ve felt obligated to place in the “mystery” category.

  3. I meant to comment on this post before now April. Thank you for sharing a glimpse into your life and hear with us all. I always find it fascinating how the stories of peoples’ various journeys overlap. The similarities and dissimilarities they share.Especially in this group of rag-tag bloggers and the introductory stories shared so far: Matthew and Jill were both raised in the Reformed tradition; you came from a very ecumenical background that included “high church” Episcopal and I journey from a “low church” charismatic, fundamentalist background.But here we all find ourselves grounded in the Reformed tradition, serving the same denomination on similar (though certainly not identical) trajectories. It is amazing how things work. Or how God works through all things.

  4. Something for Baptists and evangelicals to think about: the Baptist doctrine of the “Age of Accountability” is nowhere to be found in the New Testament.

    Isn’t it strange that God provided a means for the babies and toddlers of his chosen people in the Old Testament to be part of his Covenant promises but is completely silent about the issue in the New Testament?

    Jesus seemed to really love the little children… but he never mentions even once, if the Baptist/evangelical view of salvation is correct, how a Christian parent can be assured that if something dreadful happens to their baby or toddler, that they will see that child again in heaven.

    In the Baptist/evangelical doctrine of adult-only salvation, God leaves our babies and toddlers in spiritual limbo! A Christian parent must pray to God and beg him that little Johnnie “accepts Christ” the very minute he reaches the Age of Accountability, because if something terrible were to happen to him, he would be lost and doomed to eternal hellfire.

    Do you really believe that our loving Lord and Savior would do that to Christian parents??

    Dear Christian parents: bring your little children to Jesus! He wants to save them just as much as he wants to save adults! Bring your babies and toddlers to the waters of Holy Baptism and let Jesus SAVE them!

    The unscriptural “Age of Accountability” is the desperate attempt to plug the “big hole” in the Baptist doctrine of adult-only Salvation/Justification:

    How does Jesus save our babies and toddlers?

    Gary
    Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

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