BY MICHELLE WILLIAMS, GRACE ATTENDER & BLOGGER
“I want to be bathtized!” said Cooper when he joined me for Sunday service the weekend before Independence Day. The cute and innocent perspective of our 6-year old boy gave me a little chuckle that morning as I took him for a close-up look of the open baptismal.
But in all honesty, his comment also gave me a bit of pause as I thought about him actually making such a momentous decision at this young age. I am about to tell you how my most recent “come to Jesus” moment helped me to step out of the way and allow my 6-year old son to have his own.
Cooper wasn’t baptized that morning—the rare occasion that his dad was unable to join us for church gave me an easy out in the moment. I bought some time to contemplate what was lurking inside of me, making me uneasy about whether he was really ready for baptism.
Let’s take a quick look at Luke 18:15-17:
15 One day some parents brought their little children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But when the disciples saw this, they scolded the parents for bothering him. 16 Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 17 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”
My first reaction mirrored that of the disciples. I was uncomfortable—wondering whether we would be a bother to present our 6-year old child for baptism. Could Cooper even comprehend the weight of such a decision? Why did I feel a nagging sense that it could somehow be perceived as superficial? And then there was my nervous awareness that it didn’t fit into any of the traditions of conventional wisdom that have been familiar to me. Plus, I’m well aware of the dark seed of shame that lingers within me. It pokes at my ill-conceived, self-conscious notion that I myself still have “catching up” to do on some imaginary scorecard with God, making me doubt whether each move I make is the “right” one.
Enter the Holy Spirit, who much like the statement given by Jesus, convicts me of my assumptions. Who am I to stand in my son’s way? Who am I to impose my own fears and doubts on my child’s innocence and eagerness to enter into his own relationship with Christ? Who am I to give our son an impression that he needs to be more qualified in some way to make a decision that is fully his own? Who am I to feel like we’d be bothering Jesus when what Jesus clearly wants is for all the little children to come to him? I repent!
With my doubts and fears squashed, we started making plans for Cooper’s August baptism. And we celebrated his decision. The night before he was to be baptized, I read him a handwritten letter, which I gave to him to keep. We invited family and friends to join us that Sunday morning to witness his big decision. Through it all, I now see that the Holy Spirit was working with me to help me become more of an extension of Jesus’ love rather than a hindrance to it. And I wanted to share our story to be an encouragement for anyone who, like me, might be nervous to bring their own little children to Jesus.
With an open heart, I’m also sharing the letter I presented to Cooper before his baptism. This letter serves as my prayer over him, as well as a token of the love and memories our family made together through his decision.
Tomorrow you will be baptized. You made this choice, and we’ve talked a little about what it means. There’s so much that I want to share with you, but we’ll start with why this decision brings me joy. I’m giving you this letter now so you’ll always be able to look back at these words as you grow in life and build your beliefs. Your dad and I will continue to share our own experiences and beliefs with you over the years as you explore and experience life on your own.
Getting baptized is symbolic—it’s a way to show that you want to follow Jesus and learn from him. The reason that your decision brings me joy is because Jesus is an excellent teacher. It gives me comfort and peace that you’re ready to look to him as a teacher throughout your life.
You can learn about Jesus and from Jesus in a lot of ways. The Bible tells us a lot about Jesus, and it also explains that you can find Jesus within your own heart. You can also talk to other people about their experiences and what they’ve learned in their own journeys. Basically, anywhere you look for Jesus you’ll probably find him.
Getting baptized and following Jesus means that you’ll do your best to transform your own heart to be more like his heart. I’ll tell you what this means to me. As humans, we are not always going to be perfect at loving other people. Sometimes people may hurt your feelings and make you feel bad. Even mommy and daddy—as much as we love you with all of our hearts—we may accidentally hurt your feelings from time to time. Sometimes, you may hurt other people’s feelings, too. And sometimes, we can even make ourselves feel bad without anyone else’s help. At church, they call this the “human condition.” It’s just so challenging for us as humans to love perfectly.
Now Jesus is pure and perfect love. He came to tell us that even when the world or things that happen make us feel bad, each of us is precious because we are all children of God. He came to teach us how to love better and bring more light into the world. Jesus can even show you how to love yourself better as well as loving others better. He’ll inspire you to be patient, kind, and gentle. And he’ll encourage you to resist the urge to be selfish, angry, foolish or wicked. Jesus wants to carry your burdens—for you to lean on him through the difficult times in life. When you’re sad or worried or scared or nervous, you can turn to him. He wants to come find you when you feel lost. He’ll give you love and acceptance, especially in times when you can’t find it anywhere else. He wants to be your role model, too. Jesus was great at standing up for what’s right, even if it was difficult or scary for him. Jesus can teach you something about every important moment in your life if you just remember to look to him first.
I have prayers for you as you continue to develop your relationship with Jesus. I pray that you can find peace through Jesus in all the battles of life. I pray that you experience the strength of faith when you can’t find the answers. I pray that you learn how to find joy in life even when bad things happen. I pray that you always keep your heart open to Jesus so he can reach you even if you forget to seek him first.
Your dad and I are so lucky to have you in our lives, and we are honored to stand next to you as you take this big step in your life tomorrow. We love you so much!
Take the Plunge
Maybe you're like me; you are not sure if this is the right decision for your child(ren). My encouragement to you is to stop and listen for the Holy Spirit. He will guide you and your little one(s). And, if your child is ready and you've talked through it together, I encourage you to jump in the tank with them! The first weekend of each month, we open our baptismal so anyone who has surrendered their life to Christ can publically display it in this ceremonial way. Whether it's you or your child making the decision, we are excited to stand with you/them in the waters as you declare your faith to all.