Spiritual Birthday: The day that you “prayed the prayer,” officially giving your life to Christ and being born new in him.
”You are so young; you stand for beginnings. I would like to beg of you, dear friend, as well as I can, to have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
This is normal, I suppose. Those earliest years are a bit piecemeal for all of us. I’m told I was five; I remember the cold fear of a bad dream. I can picture my parents’ bedroom, the early morning light on their bed as I came running.
But I don’t remember “praying the prayer.” I don’t remember what my mom said to me or what I said to God as I “asked Jesus into my heart.” I only remember that bedroom. The wrinkled sheets. The light breaking in through the blinds.
I don’t doubt that it was important, that moment, that day. My child heart was reaching for something that it did not understand but believed to be true. A safe place, a good place. A home. It is the blurry beginning of something beautiful, and I keep this memory fragment close to my heart.
And yet, it was only one moment. And I was only five. If you ask the date of my “spiritual birthday,” I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know what day it was that I said that prayer, and I’m not sure that it matters.
I was raised, after all, in the stories and songs of Jesus; I knew his face from early on, and who can say when my small heart opened wide? I am not convinced that there is a certain prayer – a secret handshake of word and faith that gets you in. We are a hundred thousand kinds of different, and no love story is the same.
My faith is a beaded string of unmarked, important moments. That hazy five-year-old one, to be sure, where I understood God to be bigger than my fear. But also the dark ones, where I felt unsure of him. The lonely ones. The angry, questioning ones. They are part of it too.
There was an important moment when, as a teenager, the words of the Bible felt brilliant and new and alive for the first time, and I laid in bed and read and underlined and read and underlined. There was that day during my thirteenth year when I stood in the baptismal pool and spoke my faith from a note card. The water swirled around my feet and the people sang around me, and it mattered.
But it also mattered, years later, when those same words felt like a wall I kept hitting my head against. Grace was there, kneeling down next to me on the bathroom floor in my drunken, angry moments. He was there when I was running, when I was hiding, and this matters too.
I don’t remember much about the first time I chose God, but I remember the day early on in my first pregnancy, when I made a simple choice to move away from cynicism, to let it go. I remember what it felt like to be knee deep in anger and to shakily, imperfectly choose to move back toward the Light.
There are these and a thousand more. Moments I have forgotten; moments I never even noticed but that changed me imperceptibly. And it seems right that these marked days pass unobserved each year, because God is always doing a new thing.
Faith, after all, is not just one day in which your life was changed. It is that magnetic, changing pull of love every moment of every day. So it seems right to spend less time celebrating the moment that I found God and instead keep my eyes wide open. To look for the ways he is always finding me.
We are born, one day, into the world. We breathe in, and our spirits are already spread wide within us. We are alive and we are loved.
After that, it’s just a matter of waking.