Baptism in the reformed tradition is a sacrament that publicly announces our belonging to God. Many, but not all, choose infant baptism as a means of acknowledging the promises of God and subsequently promising that our efforts as a church body will always direct the child to Christ. (For more on this, click here.)
We are currently raising our boys in a church that celebrates baptism differently from how we were taught (or more specifically, how I was taught). In a previous life, I considered baptism valid only if the recipient of the sacrament made the decision himself. That is, someone had to verbally say the words – to repeat the script, of sorts – and personally choose to be baptized. Infant baptism eluded me. How could a baby choose to be a follower of Christ? How could a baby make a public statement?
I understand the significance and validity of that theology. It makes sense. Someone chooses to follow Christ, therefore someone chooses to make that decision public through baptism. I get it. I was baptized under that theology and so was Jeremy.
That being said, I’ve come to a place where I recognize, respect, and believe that infant baptism is just as valid, just as special, and just as meaningful as any other form of baptism. It’s a sacrament rooted in promise and proclamation. Why not place your baby before the church and God and everyone and promise to tend to her body and soul and, as a collective, proclaim the child as God’s? I totally get it. I’m down with it. God is way bigger than all the ways we try to box Him in.
By the way, have you ever seen a baby baptized? I tear up every time.
This brings me to Jackson. He is not baptized, nor has he really inquired about it. If you ask him about God and Jesus and the Bible, he gets a little fuzzy. In Sunday School he draws pictures of superheroes and Josh Dobbs. He takes communion with us, but the meaning of it isn’t something he can explain on his own. (He did tell me once that the grape juice we drink for the Lord’s Supper is his second favorite drink, the first being Sprite.)
On Sunday we celebrated an infant’s baptism, and as our pastor sprinkled the water over the child’s bald little head, Jackson leans over to me and whispers, “That’s baptized?”
I nod, he nods, then he goes back to reading his book about the San Fransisco 49ers.
A flood of questions fill my head. What if he’s never baptized? What if he’s never able to explain the holy triune or know that celebrating the Lord’s Supper is a precious, commemorative, sacred act that connects us directly to Christ? What if my tender-hearted animal lover reads too many Old Testament passages about burnt offerings and can’t deal?
What if Jackson never gets it?
There’s a lot of stuff Jackson gets, by the way. He’s a stellar student. He’s so sharp academically that I’m working hard to make sure I get enough curriculum to last him through next April. He’s emotionally vulnerable and very sensitive to when others are hurt. His selective memory is incredible (football stats, anyone?) and he totally knew that Vision was going to make an appearance in the second Avengers movie long before it was announced.
But spiritually, I wonder.
What I’m not worried about is God’s claim on Jackson. That’s covered. My worry lies in the reciprocation.
Thankfully, we belong to a church body who is really great about teaching kids about God in kid language. Jackson is a rising fourth grader and that means he’ll graduate to a new group that uses The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter as a conduit. It may be that Jackson continues to draw pictures of superheroes and Josh Dobbs while everyone else draws Aslan and Hedwig. He may not get the symbolism or draw parallels. He may love it or he may get bored. Sometimes his Sunday morning mood is dependent on whether or not Tennessee won its football game on Saturday.
Still, we press on, because whether or not Jackson ever stands before a congregation and says the words, or whether or not he speaks them quietly to himself, he is a loved, cherished, irreplaceable child of God, and that’s the kind of promise that doesn’t break.