One of the challenges of visiting churches comes with standing by during meaningful moments. This morning was baptism Sunday and I felt slightly voyeuristic peering in on this significant moment for 8 individuals. But let me tell you, such an experience won’t leave me dry eyed. I was glad when the worship leader was clearly moved as well, so I was in good company.
The preacher did a fantastic job of sharing the heart for each person in this group of young people (and one adult) and praying for their future. It was not just about going under the water to be washed clean, but rising again into a future of walking with God.
I recently read a post about parenting and faith (and I cannot seem to find it to link to it. Blogger Fail.) which the author weighed the idea of baptism of young kids; she had come through a faith crisis herself and when her 5 year old came to her asking to be baptized, she had trouble agreeing to it. The sentiment of the post was that the little boy didn’t realize what he was committing to; that though everlasting life and love of Jesus might be the reasons we’re baptized, it comes with a commitment to carry a cross, love our neighbors and give and serve more than we receive. I resonated with her thoughts – I have difficulty sometimes grasping and living what a decision to follow Jesus means. Does this little one understand the gravity or the depth of such a decision.
But today, watching the young people (ages 5 to probably 10, and one adult) make professions of faith – “I want everyone to know that I love God” and “I’m ready to follow Jesus” – one can’t help but experience that other-worldly idea of Hope of which we read and sing. Because the adults leading these children weren’t just leading them to a single decision of salvation, but directing them toward a lifelong journey of walking with God. Did the kids completely understand what will be involved? I would say they did to the extent they are capable. At no point do we really comprehend what a commitment might hold, but we can grasp its current reality.
And because those baptized were a part of the children’s ministry, they brought down all the kids to watch. H Boy was front and center watching, full of curiosity. I absolutely loved this, knowing he was participating in something very holy and very real. At the same time, I sat filled with dread about the questions. And the answers I’m supposed to have. And my convictions and my worries and my (see above paragraph)… I began to realize just how big this job is getting and how unprepared – unqualified – I am.
But then I remembered the words of a pastor I greatly appreciate. A few years ago there was a message about childhood discipleship following VBS week. His main point said that such grand events are fun, but if not followed with a life and understanding of Jesus the rest of the year, it’s done in vain. He talked about parenting and the weight we we feel. I wasn’t a parent when I heard it, but it stuck with me. He honestly reflected that sometimes as a parent – though he’s a preacher – he’s scared to death and doesn’t feel like he has the right answers. All of a sudden, it became okay to not be ready for this.
So much of our life we’re learning as we go. Parenting, for me, falls into that category. As does Faith. I don’t have answers. I don’t know the ideal time to baptize a kid or how to plant the seeds in these young minds that someday they’ll have to make a decision about who or what will be the center of their lives and if we choose Jesus, that means our life might not be the same. It’s overwhelming to think about the bigness of God and the smallness of the vocabulary and experiences I’ve got to work with in translating to them.
But then again, there’s Crowder: My eyes are small but they have seen / the beauty of enormous things / which leads me to believe / there’s light enough to see.
The pastor remarked about how God uses an inward work and an outward act to culminate in a beautiful thing we call baptism. For me, it became a beautiful collision of hope and fear and the admission that at times they coexist. Not a fear that leaves me scared, but a fear that recognizes the weight of the task ahead. A healthy fear that causes me to pray – and pray hard – on behalf of my littles. And for me. And for my husband. And for the church community in which we’ll be planted. Because it will be God working through all things that actually bring my kids to the point of asking, seeking and knocking, not just my Correct Answers or Brilliant Analogies. My Wisdom and Know-How have nothing on the experience of introducing my kids to a world of people that love Jesus.