A mother and her young son sit alone in a near empty sanctuary in the midst of a sea of country blue pews. I notice that both of them are sobbing almost uncontrollably. Faces are red and splotchy and washed with rivers of tears.
I don’t remember talking to them but I think I did because I found out why they were crying. The mother was just told by the departing Youth Minister that her youngest son was not ready for baptism. They were crushed. Her oldest son had just made the decision to be baptized and as expected her youngest wanted to be baptized as well.
It’s an image as fresh on my mind as it was almost eighteen or nineteen years ago when I came upon it. Now, here I was facing the same crossroads. My oldest son just announced his decision to be baptized and my youngest wanted to follow suit.
In my gut I knew why Carsen wanted to be baptized. What six year old would want to miss out on possibly the last chance to be in a pool of water? Summer was at an end and school was about to start the very next day?
Carsen heard the jubilant phone calls being made to grandparents and invitations for coffee and cake after the event. He wanted to be a part of the excitement. He wanted the party to be for him too.
We questioned Carsen and tried to finagle the true reason for his decision. I was careful not to lead him in his answer but he couldn’t say why he wanted to be baptized or why we are baptized. We had just sat in the baptism class to explain our church’s belief. The kid forgot to take notes.
There’s only so much you can explain in the car while talking over your shoulder. I felt this conversation needed undivided attention so it would have to wait until we got home.
Both Todd and I scrambled to throw our house together for the impromptu gathering that would take place after the church picnic. The boys played. My heart was hurting the whole time for Carsen while I cleaned. He was smiling on the outside but I could just see the light in his eyes had faded to a pool of sadness.
I immediately launched into prayer. Was I about to ruin my child? Was this the pivotal moment in his life that he would mark the day he felt rejected by God by my hands? You may scoff and say I was over reacting but seriously the thoughts pierced my heart and mind. I had witnessed how the decision to wait crushed a young mother and son.
Todd and I spoke many times. We needed to sit Carsen down and talk to him. I’m sure the boy thought he was in trouble when we called him up front and closed the doors for privacy.
I don’t recall how the conversation started but it was most important to understand his reason for wanting to be baptized. He was doing it because Tucker was.
I desperately wanted Carsen to know he was loved and not second best. He had to know I believed in him and his love for Jesus.
“I know one day you will be baptized because I prayed for it. I know that you love Jesus and believe Him. When that day comes it’s going to be your special day. I want it to be your decision. One day you’re going to tell me you want to be baptized and I’m going to call everyone I know. We’ll get a cake and we’ll celebrate it just like we’re doing today.”
I couldn’t tell him enough that I believed in him and that I loved him and that God loved him more. It was a relief to see the light return to his eyes and shine through his smile. I could breathe again.
Like any six year old, Carsen recovered quickly. There was no longer a cloud hanging over him. I will say, Mommy hasn’t recovered as quickly. Just writing about it now makes my throat ache.
This parenting stuff is hard. It forces us to stand when we want to hide somewhere and cry because we’re scared. I press on and continue to teach my boys about our faith and what it means to live it out in a world that is against us.
I want my boys to know why our family believes what we do and to be able to defend it whenever needed. It’s not just enough to say “I am a Christian,” not anymore. It’s not just enough to be baptized because your brother is. WHY do you want to be baptized?