In response to the previous post, Tyler asks a question about why my writing here has shifted away from more philosophical interests and toward more of an emphasis on faith. I actually haven’t noticed a pronounced shift in my writing, to be honest, but I am not always the most reliable or accurate assessor of myself, so I will happily leave such questions to others. I provided a long-ish answer to Tyler’s question in the comment thread of the previous post, but I think the shorter answer just walked out of my office door.
A young person—not even twenty—who I had never met before simply drove up to the church, walked into my office, and told me they wanted to be baptized. Just like that. No church background, no formal connection to any religious tradition… nothing. Just a sense of emptiness and need, a weariness of drifting, a haunting experience of absence, an inarticulate hope. No clearly formulated expectation or desire, just a general sense that something is missing and that somehow this something has to do with God.
It was a little surreal, to be honest, and I was embarrassed by my fumbling and bumbling response. I asked to hear a bit of their story, talked a bit about how Mennonites understand baptism, scheduled further meetings and conversations. All well and good, I suppose, but perhaps a better response would have been, “Hallelujah!!” Or a hug. I told them how encouraged I was to hear the kinds of questions they were asking and that I was very excited to explore baptism with them. But it somehow seemed kind of limp… like it didn’t reflect the gravitas of the moment… Or something like that. As I watched out my window as this person drove off, I thought about the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40. “What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” the Ethiopian asked? Not much, it turned out. Maybe, like the story in Acts, an impromptu baptism would have been the appropriate response!
At any rate, I have been thinking about this remarkable experience in the context of the previous post and the conversation around reason and faith. Reason is important, certainly, and I am grateful for it. Reason can even be one of the modes through which God draws people to himself. But it is not the only one. Not even close. Sometimes it is simply a raw recognition of our smallness and our need. Sometimes it is an inexpressible hunger for forgiveness. Sometimes it is paying attention to longing and desire. Sometimes it is weeping and raging against the experience of divine absence or being dazzled by a vision of hope. Sometimes we have no idea who we are or what we want or how we will get to the place of deep acceptance, peace, and joy that we intuitively feel we were made for… but we know that somehow all of this need and desire and longing is bound up with the person of God.
And so we take a step. We put ourselves out there. We make a call, we walk through a door, we ask a question, we say a prayer. We leap.
Whether it is “rational” or not.