One of the drawbacks of home worship was that Luke and Elizabeth were never baptized. I myself had a more-or-less Baptist upbringing (with generous helpings of batshit crazy, but that’s another post.) (Or probably not.) so the baptism thing weighed a little on my conscience as the kids grew older.
Actually once, when Elizabeth was three or four, I decided it was time to address the matter. I figured I’d check out the local churches until I found one that I liked and have it done there. Luke was just an infant and Elizabeth wasn’t good at sitting still yet, so I left them home with Steve one Sunday and began my experiment with a nice-looking little Baptist church in our area.
I really enjoyed the sermon. It was about how Christian love was meant to be shared with everyone, not just people who are like us. How we should extend the hand of fellowship and brotherhood to all those around us, and that just because someone has piercings or tattoos or weird hair, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re possessed of a demon or anything, and that we should show them the same kindness and grace that God offers freely to all His children.
It was a message that fit perfectly with my own philosophy, and the minister delivered it with great eloquence and conviction. I felt that here was a man who would understand my request.
So after the service I went over to him and explained that we had been home-worshipping, but that I would like to have my daughter baptized before she started school.
He looked at me with thinly-concealed disapproval and said that he would never even consider baptizing someone who wasn’t a member of his own church.
That was the end of my personal experience with organized religion until a few weeks ago when I began attending a local non-denominational church that a friend recommended. I’ve enjoyed the services there, and I’ve made a new friend or two, but this time I didn’t bring up the subject of baptism. I figured if we liked the church well enough to stick around, there was plenty of time to deal with that issue later.
But last week the pastor suddenly announced that on the following Sunday he would have the tub set up, and that he would offer baptisms to anyone who wanted one. I perked right up. One week would give me just enough time to explain to the kids exactly what it was all about, and let them prepare themselves for the deed.
Then the pastor added, “Raise your hand if you would like to be baptized next Sunday.” Seven or eight hands went up in the congregation.
I hesitated, then told the kids to raise their hands. They obliged, with rather baffled expressions.
THEN the pastor said, “Hey, everyone who wants to be baptized come on up here to the front!”
This was truly awkward. I had never really talked about baptism to Luke or Elizabeth, and they had no idea what the pastor was going on about. I thought about dropping the whole idea for now, but it was really something that should have been taken care of long ago. So I whispered to the kids, “Go on up there. I’ll explain everything when we get home.”
Trusting little souls that they are, they got up and joined the others in the front near the pastor. He was talking to each person about why they wanted to be baptized and so on, and when he reached Luke and Elizabeth he said, “So you two want to be baptized?”
“Actually,” Elizabeth leaned forward and enunciated clearly into the mic he held, “Our mom just told us to come up here.”
The congregation ROARED with laughter at her innocent candor and her faintly disgruntled tone. I’m sure I blushed scarlet.
The pastor laughed too, and made a comment about Elizabeth obviously being an intelligent, clear-thinking person. She was pleased by the compliment and beamed a smile at me. I gave her a wry thumbs-up, wishing I’d followed my first instinct and kept my mouth shut.
Then the pastor turned to Luke. “Do you love Jesus?”
“Yes,” Luke said, plainly wondering where this was headed.
“DO you?” The pastor demanded in a tell-the-truth-now voice.
“YES,” Luke insisted, looking mildly affronted.
The pastor turned back to Elizabeth. “Do you love Jesus?”
She nodded warily.
“Okay then! See you next Sunday.”
So I spent the past week explaining the significance of baptism, the physical and spiritual process, and the importance of only having it done if you really mean it, because faking it is worse than not doing it at all.
Luke, who is made of love wrapped in compassion and filled with a desire to be good, was only worried about getting water up his nose and the potential coldness of the water. He said he would like to see other people survive getting baptized before he made a final decision. I told him that was fine.
Elizabeth, who has always led with her intellect rather than her heart, said that she didn’t feel ready to make such a profound commitment at this point, and that she would pass on the baptism this time. It wasn’t really what I’d wanted to hear, but I thanked her for her honesty and appreciated her respect for the significance of the act.
So yesterday at church Elizabeth unselfconsciously told the pastor that she wasn’t ready to be baptized yet, and he smiled and said he’d be there whenever she felt ready. And Luke watched the others undergo the ritual cleansing and offering themselves to God (in a big horse trough full of warm water), and then said that he’d like to be baptized now, please. And it was beautiful and perfectly Luke, right down to when he asked permission to hold his nose for the dunking. I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera.
So. One kid baptized, one to go. And I’m feeling pretty good about our new church, which is a nice feeling.
In other news, we’ve had to fire up our woodstove twice already this week, which is HIGHLY unusual for October in Anza. The weather has turned brisk and breezy and downright cold at night, and while I adore Autumn — It’s absolutely my favorite season — I can’t help wondering how long my store of firewood is going to last if we have another winter like the last one. And I just bought a batch of young chicks to replenish my aging flock of egg-layers, and the last few nights have been a bit too cold for their safety.
And at the same time I can’t seem to get too worried about those things. I’ve felt God’s hand in my life so vividly these past few months, guiding and teaching and providing, that my prevailing mood is one of trust and thankfulness and acceptance and occasionally pure joy. Fear, even seemingly legitimate fears about things like running out of firewood or losing my chicks to a cold snap, don’t seem to get a foothold lately; I just feel like everything will work out for the best. The chicks will be fine, the firewood will last as long as it needs to. Things work out.
AND! This morning someone told me that my little cardboard jail made the front page of one of the local newspapers this week! How cool is that? I’ll have to pick up a copy next time I’m near a store. Gotta love living in a small town. :^)