New Year, New You: On Baptism & Other Bullshit.

My friend Kristie is keeping her head down to avoid the New Year’s headlines.

New year, new you.

I decided to stick to the trench, too.  I think she might be right.  I’ve had plenty of new me’s, and I’m not convinced I’ve liked any of them.

I’m not against New Year’s goals.  I started my list mid-November, skating my eyes across the imaginary horizon of January 1st hopefully, with the same feeling I get after scrubbing the gross stuff from under the kitchen sink knobs.

I blame Jesus, of course, with all his old-made-new philosophy, scrubbed with blood and impossibly comes out clean.  After I was born, I had to be born again.  I’m afraid I jumped the shark, though.  Baptized at age 12 gave me a lot of time, as in the rest of my life, with no additional scrub downs.  At least not in an official capacity.  You don’t get a celebratory cake in the church basement for crying on your knees on the last night of Christian camp.  And the dirt seemed to keep accumulating, regardless.  And the quick fix to getting clean feels, well, glorious.  Addicting.

One of my sisters was baptized twice– a re-dedication.  She still shriveled into an unhappy woman who has committed near villainous proportions of relational crimes.  Maybe the double baptism had an inverse spiritual reaction.  Either way, I’m glad I didn’t go that route.  Getting two spiritual birthdays might mean twice the cake, but the responsibility for maintaining the clean new you is buckling.  But for that minute after she came up out of the swimming pool baptism– that moment that feels like New Year’s Day– I envied it.

000431620010The trouble with New Year, New You is that it wastes so much time.  The baptism, the diet, the programs, the memberships– they take at least a January’s worth to weed back down to the you that you are.  Which only gives eleven months to figure out why you felt you needed to be a new you.  And eleven months is not nearly enough time to get to the heart of any matter– especially when the heart of the matter is the human heart.  Because the heart doesn’t say “I want to lose 20 pounds.”  That’s what the New You says.  The heart says “I don’t feel good in my body.  I feel worthless at this weight because of social and personal experiences that have sculpted a belief that I need to take up less space, and that even if I meet their impossible standards, I will fail in some other way.  So maybe what I really want is to create better pathways in my brain to food and exercise, and quit disassociating it as the ’cause’ when my real cause is my lack of love for myself, and part of loving myself is taking care of myself and sometimes to eat cake, too.  But first I have to get to know me– oh!  Hello!  How are you feeling?  Are you hungry?  Tired? I want to know everything about you.”

New You doesn’t ask that shit.

Maybe it goes like this: that when Jesus invited us along, he didn’t mean “come as you are so I can fix you,” but rather, “come as you are because everyone else– including some dumbass theologians down the line– is going to try and make a new you, but I actually need us all to continue to be who we are as we are, but even more as we are, because the better we know ourselves, the better we can love ourselves, and the better we can love each other.”  Maybe Jesus is less about a New You, and more about You.  And maybe that doesn’t have anything to do with Jesus at all.

I’m with Kristie.  I like the old her.  Or rather, just her.  Which makes it likely that the old me is pretty good, too.  Clean isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, anyway.  I believe I am falling in love with this mess.

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