Flex: Coming Down from the Mountaintop
By Jonathan Kohlmeier
"Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it."
(Proverbs 22:11 NKJV)
(Proverbs 22:11 NKJV)
Throughout your lifetime, there will be moments that are considered "life-changing." You get your first job. You meet your future spouse for the first time. A friend and classmate is killed in a car accident. Graduation days, bad breakups, relocation, and illnesses all change your life in some way.
In the same way, you will attend events that create a mountaintop experience that could very well impact your life. If you've attended a Higher things conference, it will probably be an experience that you remember for the rest of your life. You might even look back on those four days and say that they were life changing for you.
But those moments fade. The emotional charge that came with the mountaintop experience gives way to the mundane, the routine, the boring. Some would give almost anything to feel something that strongly again. You want to feel something—good or bad—as intense as the sadness that accompanies the loss of a friend or a family member. You long for that unparalleled excitement caused by being surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people your own age who believe the same things that you do; to hear their voices joined with yours as you sing. You just want something that you can feel in your heart and your mind, something that you can remember, something that will break this boring routine in which you seem to be perpetually stuck.
Strangely enough such life-changing, mountaintop experiences aren't the important things. The important things happen in between those moments and during those not-so-dynamic times.
Proverbs 22 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." The important things are in your training! A concert choir spends many hours rehearsing a piece that will take them five minutes to perform in concert. A cross country runner will run countless miles in preparation for their 20-minute 5K race. The important time is spent in his training, where things become so second nature that they don't have to exert much thought when those big moments come.
Your training as a Lutheran is in your baptism: the daily drowning of your Old Adam and your being raised to new life in Christ. The Small Catechism shows you what that looks like. Upon waking up in the morning, you make the sign of the cross, "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." You repeat the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, Luther's Morning Prayer, and go joyfully to your school or work singing a hymn. Before meals you ask a blessing and say the Lord's Prayer. Afterwards, you repeat the Lord's Prayer and return thanks for the gifts that God has given to you. At the end of the day you again make the sign of the cross, "In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." You repeat the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and Luther's Evening Prayer before going to sleep in good cheer.
You begin and end each day with the sign of the cross as you remember your baptism. That is your training in Christ's death and resurrection. You are trained some more as you regularly receive the gifts God gives to you in the Lord's Supper. The body and blood of Christ, under bread and wine, are placed into your mouth for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
When those those negative life-changing moments happen, you remember your training. You remember your baptism. You remember Jesus. When you are afflicted by death, sadness, depression and anxiety, you are baptized! In that baptism, Jesus remembers you. In baptism, Christ has given you life, joy, contentedness and peace. When it feels like absolutely nothing is going your way, you remember your baptism. In that baptism, Christ works all things out for your good.
And when those more positive life-changing moments happen, we still remember our baptismal training. When you get the job you really wanted, when she says "Yes!" and when your hard work pays off and you ace the exam, you are baptized! When you reach that mountaintop experience, you stay grounded in your baptism. When things go back to normal, in baptism, you receive all things as gifts from the Lord.
You will experience moments that you will look back on and say that they were life changing. Those aren't the important moments. The important things happen regularly. They train you so that when those life-changing moments try to shake you to the core and turn your life upside down, you know how to respond as one who is born from above because Christ has called you by name and made you His own. When the life-changing moments come, this is most certainly true: In baptism, Christ has given you life from above. You are baptized!
Jon Kohlmeier is the former webmaster for Higher Things and lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
This article was originally published on the Higher Things website in November 2013.
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