A few months ago my daughter skipped down the hall after Sunday School and breathlessly announced she wanted to be baptized. I asked what prompted this sudden desire and she excitedly informed me she’d learned all about baptism in class that morning and really really really wanted to be baptized.
Just then her little brother bowled into me waving his morning craft and my teen tugged my arm to go and a friend stopped me to chat. I mumbled to Violet that we would talk about it later. She scampered off with friends and I forgot all about the exchange.
A few weeks later our church announced an outdoor service and baptism at the end of the summer. Violet furrowed her brow in concentration as the announcement was made then grabbed my neck to pull me towards her and whispered, “Mommy, I want to get baptized at that service.” I shushed her and nodded without even turning my head, murmuring back that we would talk about it later.
I honestly meant to talk to her more about baptism. But later never came.
I knew the date of the outdoor service would not be conducive to grandparents traveling from out of state and would come at the heels of county fair, traveling, hosting guests and the kick off of fall sports. I didn’t want to figure out a way to invite friends and out of town family and do a whole big party.
I also wanted to be sure she really understood what baptism meant and hadn’t really had a meaningful conversation with her about it. So I did what all good parents do when they don’t want to entertain their children’s plans, I blew her off.
The morning of the outdoor service was a flurry of activity between saying goodbye to house guests and my having to leave early to sing on worship team and kids needing to get fed and ready and teenagers making after-church plans with their friends and remembering the Oreos as our dish to pass and chores and dog care and all the fun that goes into getting a family of six off to a church potluck.
Somehow amidst all the chaos, it registered with Violet that this was day of the outdoor service and thus the baptism. I was heading for the door when she flew at me, fists clenched in frustration and lamented, “Mom! Wait! Today is the baptism?! I told you I wanted to be baptized!”
I stood in the entryway, feeling a little sheepish and unsure of how to handle the situation. She did tell me she wanted to be baptized and I had completely ignored her. She was clearly upset and it was my fault.
Right at that moment Dave walked past carrying an armload of laundry, which gave me a brilliant idea … make her dad deal with it.
I informed him that Violet wanted to be baptized. Today. He paused and raised an eyebrow in confusion. Obviously I never mentioned Violet’s desire to him, either. I smiled and pointed out that I knew our pastor was fine with last minute baptism additions, reminded him I was late and begged him to please just figure it out.
Then I left.
You need to know this about my husband: he doesn’t do chaos and he certainly doesn’t do last minute plans. So I figured he would talk her out of it, we would plan to do it the following summer, and that would be that.
My scheme failed.
They rolled into the park with a towel and a change of clothes and one excited little girl who was dead set on being baptized. My husband shrugged and told me he’d had a long talk with her about baptism and she definitely understood.
Our pastor was thrilled at this surprise addition and reminded me that in the New Testament, believers were baptized with no frills or furbelows. Baptism is simply a public demonstration of a believers death to sin and rebirth in Christ and its a modern concept to decorate the experience. Of course I knew this. (But they didn’t have Pinterest back then. Just sayin.)
I felt a little wistful that she wasn’t going to have any extended family present to witness or a party or a cake or even a gift to mark the occasion. But I knew better than to stand in her way and certainly wasn’t going to encourage her to wait just so I could enjoy a Kodak moment.
When the time came, my daughter stood on the beach grinning and succinctly declared her faith in Jesus to her beloved church family. She then joined hands with our pastor and waded out into the water to be baptized, beaming with anticipation.
And when she was laid back in the water and lifted again, her joy was unmistakable.
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4
I will be honest, I wished her grandparents had witnessed it. But there was something breathtakingly beautiful about the simplicity and determination with which she approached her baptism. This was her choice and her imperative.
Knowing her urgency to be baptized had little to do with me, my desires or a promise of a big celebration made her decision all the more authentic.
What more could a mother ask for?
Our culture has a tendency to do everything big and showy. And there is no doubt a baptism is sacred and worthy of a celebration. But Violet’s baptism was special in its own right. Because it turns out you don’t need fancy outfits, parties, cakes or even a decent camera to mark the occasion of a believer’s baptism. All you need is a decision to follow Jesus and a desire to share it.
And ultimately, that is all any of us need.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4