I had the great joy of baptizing my oldest child yesterday. Just the mere mention of this special moment brings tears of joy to my eyes. It’s one thing to see your child being baptized but to be the one to baptize her, is truly special.
This has been a little bit of a long and complicated road and I thought it would be a good story to tell.
To provide context, I’ll start with my own conversion.
I was 7 years old when I first heard the call of God on my heart. I knelt in my room, alone and prayed the best prayer a 7-year-old can pray. That was the beginning of my faith journey.
Of course, I grew up in the day and age where the “sinners’ prayer” of Salvation was standard practice. I remember preachers saying, you need to know the date and write it in the back of your Bible. Well, as a 7-year-old, I had not matured enough yet to mark it down in my daily planner so I never knew the date, but I remember the day like it was yesterday.
There are some very concerning issues that I have with the practice of the “sinner’s prayer” that I’ll get into later.
Needless to say, with my children, I’ve really struggled with how to navigate these waters regarding their faith journey. Like I said, I was 7 when I feel like I began my faith journey, so when my oldest, Kynleigh turned 7 my antennas started going up.
Kyn had started asking about being baptized about a year and half ago. While this was welcomed news, it was not something I took lightly and was going to be something we needed to talk about.
My tradition made me want to revert back to the “sinner’s prayer” mentioned previously, but like I said, I have some issues with that practice. The whole, repeat after me, say these words, mean it in your heart, were all pretty empty ideas. To me it just seemed to cheapen what was really happening or in some cases what had already happened, namely the new birth.
My other concern was that I felt it could be an instrument of false conversion. After all, the practice of the sinners prayer was more like joining a secret club. Say these words, mean it, get baptized and you’re in the club. But the question that lingers is, are they really? How many people have had an emotional response, repeated some words and turn around to live worldly, unrepentant lives completely devoid of the fruits of a believer, yet their eternal hope rests in something someone told them to say.
Looking back on my own experience and more importantly, looking into scripture, this is not how the new birth happens.
The new birth is mysterious. Jesus said, in Luke 17 that the coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed. He tells Nicodemus in John 3, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” He goes on to say in John 17 that Eternal Life is “knowing the one true God.” Not just believing and saying a prayer one time, but an ever-increasing knowledge of the God of Creation.
So we began to have conversations with Kyn. Some intentional and some casual conversations.
My wife and I have been very adamant about making sure our children are raised within the confines of a bible believing house but also a bible teaching church. Our girls rarely miss church. We’ve also imperfectly and clunkily tried to teach our children biblical principals at home. Again we aren’t perfect at this but we are getting better. We have lots of casual conversations where the girls ask questions and I get to give them a far too detailed answer only to be followed up by a second question that is usually 700 miles in the other direction.
But the miracle of the new birth is this: God performs the new birth in us by using the ordinary means that sometimes consists of broken, inconsistent, clunky conversations and teachings coupled with the ministry of the New Testament Church.
As we talked with Kynleigh, we discovered that that wind had been blowing through our house. We heard the sound of it, saw the fruit of the new birth, but we had no idea where or when it came. It didn’t come through observation, but our little girl had began a faith Journey and had began to know the God of the Scripture.
Shortly after we started having the conversation about baptism and yesterday I got to baptize her. We had communion at the end of the sermon and it’s something she’s really looked forward to participating in. During the final song, she leaned in and told her aunt, “I can take communion now without asking.” That made me laugh. She’s still a child with all of her childlike perspectives, but a child that is both my daughter and my sister in Christ, and a partaker in the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.