One of the ways I continue to bring love and light to the lives of my parents is by finding a way to blame them for anything amiss in my adult existence or any quirky behavior that I may exhibit. We’ve settled into a comfortable routine where they understand that anything that is unsatisfactory for me can somehow be traced to them.
For example, they were visiting recently and graciously offered to help us paint our great room. During the process of replacing all of the painted-over switch plates throughout the space, I ended up having to make four trips to The Home Depot. I kept somehow purchasing the wrong color switch plates – choosing almond instead of ivory – or bringing home the wrong size – choosing “jumbo” instead of “regular.” It was annoying that we were putting so much effort into painting the walls only to have the switch plates look wonky (to me, since I was the only one that cared about the switch plates apparently but whatever). When we still didn’t have switch plates on the walls three days after we were done painting, my parents may have casually suggested that, “Hey, Joanna, it doesn’t really matter if they’re different sizes! Or, different shades of ivory! Maybe we could just attach them! And, be done with this project! Also, maybe you should be less, you know… you sometimes if you get this hung up on switch plates.” That may not have been their exact words but their exasperation with my switch plate obsession was IMPLIED.
My response to them was something like, “Hey, mom and dad, my perfectionism didn’t just appear out of nowhere. My personality isn’t random! It’s called GENETICS. So, you really only have yourselves to blame about these switch plates. Which one of you caused me to be like this?” My mom may have pointed at my dad with only her eyes. My dad was quiet but I’m pretty sure he was mentally re-writing his will.
This is just how our relationship goes. Me, assigning blame. My parents, politely deflecting any responsibility for my neuroses.
So, naturally, when Bob and I went to join a church a few months ago but couldn’t because I had never been baptized, I knew immediately where to point the finger of blame while yelling, “J’ACCUSE!”
This past winter, Bob and I discovered a church that we really, really liked. After attending services regularly for a few months, we decided to make it our church home and seek membership. Not surprisingly, since the church is a Baptist church, it came to light during our membership class that each congregant was required to have been baptized in order to join. The baptism had to have taken place following a believer’s profession of faith. This was an issue for Bob because, despite having been baptized as an infant in the Catholic church, his infant baptism wasn’t recognized by our new church since it was performed when he was unaware of its significance. That happened to be the very same reason I WASN’T baptized as an infant – because my parents believed that one should be baptized when one is cognizant of what is happening.
Therefore, despite having been raised in a conservative Christian household, I was never baptized. My older three siblings were all baptized when they were able to offer a profession of faith but never me. We just sort of never got around to it. Which, I can only assume is because my parents were so very, very tired by the time I was in high school. Things get missed, details get overlooked. I get it. I only have three children and I can barely remember their names some days. Also, by my teenage years, my siblings were all gone from the house and my dad was working out-of-state so I don’t recall attending church regularly.
As much as I’d like to place full blame on my parents for this religious oversight, I have been deeply aware over the past twenty or so years, that I was never baptized. I thought about it rather frequently. It had become this Thing that I knew I would have to rectify. That, someday, I was going to need to be baptized. I knew that it was missing.
Finally, I had an opportunity. As it turns out, there was another woman in our new church’s membership class in the same situation and, while Bob was willing to be baptized whenever, wherever, I was reluctant to be baptized in front of the congregation in that super big tub they have near the pastor’s perch. The other woman had the same reservations and asked the pastor if he would consider baptizing us outside the church. In true giving fashion, he said, “Absolutely. I will baptize you anywhere. River, lake, you name it.” We settled on the swimming pool of a close family friend of this woman, which turned out to be, quite literally, around the corner from our home.
So, that’s how, a couple of Saturdays ago, Bob and I came to be baptized, together, in the shadow of our favorite mountains, surrounded by our three children and our closest friends and family. It was lovely and memorable and meaningful. Afterwards, we all came back to the house to eat sloppy joes.
I am so happy to be baptized after so many years of thinking about it. I am so pleased that we have found a church that feels like a home. I am delighted my children will grow up, as I did, knowing the comfort and respite of a place of worship, of a relationship with God.
As we stood in my kitchen after the baptism, after such a momentous morning, after such a huge spiritual commitment, I looked at my parents and said, “This is all your doing, you know.”