Remember your baptism.
You were a little more than a year old. Not an infant per se, which goes to show we hadn't arrived at this decision easily. Several family members attended that day. Your grandma in Texas sent you a necklace of pearls with a cross. Your dress was a hand-me-down from our dear friends in St. Louis. Pastor Jason performed the baptism, while daddy and I held you close. You remained pretty still in our arms and didn’t cry at all as the pastor formed a wet cross on your forehead in three swooping motions. The date we’d chosen had you right in the middle of cutting teeth. See in the photo how you're working your mouth just so. You didn’t feel all that well, but you went ahead and did the thing anyway. Baptism by sprinkling. We chose a life verse for you, the one we’ve uttered over you almost every night since you were born. Numbers 6:24-27. The Priestly Blessing.
Remember your baptism.
I was almost eight years old. A few weeks prior, I had walked down the aisle to one of the many verses of Just As I Am. I’d prayed the sinner’s prayer with Pastor Mike and we’d selected a date for the baptism. Pastor Chuck had been my pastor for several years before, but he was no longer at our church. We decided to go ahead with Pastor Mike even though I didn’t have the same connection with him. Our little country church didn’t have a baptismal, so the First Baptist Church in town let us use its sanctuary on Sunday afternoons when we needed to do a baptism. My outfit didn’t matter because we wore white robes over our clothes when we entered the tub of warm water. Immersion baptism. I don’t really know who all was there that day. My mom and brothers, along with some other family members. Church ones and blood ones. My dad didn’t attend.
Our baptisms look very different. But both symbolize a marking; ushering in the sacred with Spirit, water and blood.
For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water, and the blood - and these three are in agreement. (I John 5:7)
The day of your baptism was a good day. All along, however, I figured if there came a day when you wanted an immersion baptism at the point of your own personal decision to follow Christ, we’d do that as well. Confident in my theology (which should have been my first clue), I determined the baptism waters could be made available anywhere, any time. I wrote a little about that thinking here. Most days, I still believe it’s true.
Then, in the blink of an eye, you were seven. The age I was when I got baptized. You saw older children getting baptized. You observed some highly emotional adult baptisms. You wondered aloud about all of this. I’d known for years what I would say when you asked about such things. I told you in no uncertain terms you could be baptized by immersion if you chose to do so. You nodded your head and went about your day.
But it wouldn’t leave my mind. Were you reaching that important “point of decision” leading up to a believer’s baptism? Would our pastor who baptized you as a baby do an immersion baptism now these few years later? If I got this one thing wrong, would you be screwed up forever? I had several conversations with our pastor. I did the grueling work of exegesis, interpreting what Scripture had to say about this topic.
I thought I knew exactly what I believed until it directly affected your life. I’m OK with people making their own personal choices about baptism. But when it got incredibly personal, it became very important to me that we got this one right.
In the end, I’ve determined not to have you baptized again. In the Reformed tradition, I believe that day we baptized you before God and witnesses, we remembered the covenant God has already made with His people and acknowledged your place in that covenant relationship once and for all. We expressed our faith in the God who keeps His promises and asked Him to do His work in your life. It didn’t save you but it certainly started the salvation process.
Remember your baptism.
You won’t remember the specific day because you were too young. I realize now my hope for you having a baptism when you were older was more for me. I wanted you to have a day to remember. A part of me needed to point to specific times when you prayed a certain prayer or went into baptismal waters as a believer. My Baptist roots run deep.
I realize now, the phrase “remember your baptism” isn’t necessarily about exact details of a one-time event, even though I’ll offer those to you any time you ask. It’s more about remembering the covenant. Your life is not your own. God has claimed you as His and you are to walk in that. We’re to show you how.
God will provide many milestones in your faith walk. Dates and times and people you can look back on and see God working. The first time you took Communion. Perhaps special times at VBS or church camp. Men and women of influence. I don’t know the details but He does.