On the Day I was Born

pop and finn

At Finn’s Baptism

The day I was born was a Tuesday.

Omar came into class that day distraught. He was a quiet guy, but he was quieter still today. The lesson was taught, the assignment given, and he sat there staring at the wall.

I needled him, prodded him, and he eventually joined me in a quiet corner where, quietly, he sobbed for his friend, shot last night. Dead this morning.

And then we did Algebra, and though we tried to pretend nothing had happened, it had, and we both had to learn how to be open to its power.

I was born on a Saturday once when, after a 4am wake-up with water and expectation, we wheeled into the ER four hours later. And after just a few minutes, a brand new, wonderful cry, never heard before in all the world, joined a chorus of prayers and I had to learn really quickly about new life.

I would have a similar birth on another Saturday a few years later.

I was born on a Thursday. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, as I gave the sermon at the burial of Raphael. It was at the Catholic church on Belmont Avenue. Rudy, his partner, looked on from that second row.  It was my first funeral as a participant, and I wasn’t even ordained yet, but the kind priest allowed me to say a few words because I was the one who held Raphael’s hand, and the hand of Rudy, and the sister, as Raphael’s symptoms grew worse and it was clear that AIDs would claim him.

That I day I learned to say hard truths about life and death.

I was born on a Wednesday night, laughing my head off, as my friend and I said fond farewells.  He was leaving for far off lands in the morning, and would not be returning.  We made vows to encourage and pray and support from afar. To share laughs still, and update each other when the kid(s) would come (on my end), or when the girlfriend would be found (on his).

That day I relearned how to rely on grace and the truth that proximity is a poor indication of deep friendship.

I was born on a Sunday, 35 years ago, when at just a month old my parents made promises for me and the pastor turned the waters of a font into amniotic fluid and my crown was once again rushed upon by water and shouts of affirmation and even applause.

That day I would learn that a community and a promise can keep things together, by God.

This Sunday Nicodemus comes to Jesus in spiritual darkness, and Jesus encourages him to be born again.  That “born again” language has so much baggage, I can barely say it sometimes.

And yet, if I plot it out on the calendar, I’ve been born again many times. Dozens of times. Each time a new grace forms my heart into a cross-shaped muscle, pumping in grace and pumping out grace, giving me a glimpse of this elusive “kingdom of God” Jesus talks about, which is not used as a substitute for heaven, by the by.

The kingdom of God: where tears are shed and wiped, and wrongful death is cursed.

The kingdom of God: where new life causes growth and evolution and patience and a new understanding of costly grace.

The kingdom of God: where we speak of God’s love trampling death underfoot.

The kingdom of God: where bonds run deeper than geography and spiritual connection tethers people together.

The kingdom of God: where both Divine and human promises are held in trust.

When were you born?


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