Spiritual practice looks different for everyone as well all come to Jesus in different ways, and my relationship with Jesus has been complex. Part of my spiritual practice is to renew my baptismal vows regularly, a minimum of once a week, to keep them on my mind. They are a great guide for Christian life, if a person doesn’t know where to start with following Jesus, these are a good thing to memorize and to live. As an Episcopalian, they are promises that I made with God, the Church, and myself.
Last time I wrote about the renunciation part of the promises, and this time I’m going to focus on the next three questions which are the things I promised to embrace after I’ve renounced Satan, the evil powers of the world, and all sinful desires. When I renounced those things, I then promised to replace them with good things. I promised to turn to Jesus Christ, which has been a hugely important thing for me, a conscious choice to follow Jesus, not once, but each and every day.
I also promised to put my whole trust in his grace and love, and this is one that I promised to do and then later on felt like I had lied because I hadn’t been putting my whole trust in his grace and love. I did eventually come to the point where I was at least willing to trust in his grace and love, and so I started with that, because, as I say often, prayer changes people, not things. In this promise, which I’m not great at keeping yet, I promise to do it but at the same time I’m not doing it but willing to do it, and if I keep promising it and keep praying and keep getting closer to Jesus, one day I will find that I just believe. It probably won’t be a huge revelatory moment, although I’ve had many of those in my life, it will probably just be that one day I sit down to prayer and realize that I believe it wholeheartedly.
The last part of the three things that I promised to do after the three things I chose to renounce is that not only am I promising to turn to Jesus and accept Jesus, but then I’m asked to put my whole trust in his grace and love, and then, I’m asked to promise to follow and obey him. Again, there is wisdom in the way that this was put together, because these questions are in a specific order. First I renounce, then I turn to Jesus, making a decision to accept his grace in my life. Second, I’m asked to trust in that grace and love that I just accepted, which is much harder, and then thirdly, I’m then asked to follow Jesus.
It’s as smooth as the steps in addiction recovery, each one builds upon the other, and that’s the purpose of the baptismal vows and recovery. I had a moment where, apart from the baptismal vows, I was given a very formal moment to either choose Jesus or reject him, and I chose Jesus quite deliberately. After that commitment was made, I then had to maintain it by choosing Jesus daily, sometimes hourly. Maintaining that commitment and relationship means trusting Jesus to keep up his part of the relationship, to believe him when he assures me of his love. Following Jesus means listening to him and loving him.
One of the things about these promises is that they are a progression as I continue my journey with Jesus, also. This is why the Church renews the vows on certain feast days, it’s because they are promises that as I live in to them, as they change my life, there are others things that come up and I understand them more deeply later.