Baptizing a Pirate
I’ve always enjoyed going to church, but I think I enjoy it more now that I’m a mom. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard having to shush and cajole kids into behaving, especially when there is vital information being provided from the front of the sanctuary, but the innocence of children’s questions about faith really puts into perspective how much you know (or don’t know) about God and the Bible, and if you’re anything like me, not knowing something that you thought you knew (or think you need to know) truly inspires you to get out there and find out. Teachers always say things like “you can really tell if a student knows something if he can explain it to a peer.” Well, I’ll contend that you really understand something if you can explain it in an honest and meaningful way to child. This has been a real challenge for me since I’ve become a parent, but it’s one that I think has made me want to strengthen my understanding and faith. After all, I’m not just trying to get myself to heaven; I also have to lay the foundation so that my children will live lives that will get them to heaven as well.
Today, the Pirate told me that she wanted to be baptized. In all honesty, I think she’s too young. I’ve always wondered why parents who join church insist that their children, no matter how young, be baptized on that following first Sunday, knowing that they don’t really understand the commitment they are making, but I’ve respected their choice as parents. For me, I believe a person, regardless of his age, should be able to confess honestly for himself. Merely being dipped in the water means little otherwise. So imagine my surprise when my four-year-old told me in a way only the Pirate can, with conviction and quite matter-of-factly, that this is something she wanted to do. I told her that we would ask the pastor after church what he thought. This was enough to pacify her for the rest of the service.
My pastor said that I should speak with her about baptism to ensure that she truly understood, and if she did, allow her to come. This, I thought, was a reasonable course of action, so on the way home, I decided to begin this conversation with the Pirate and the Princess. I wanted to gauge where they were spiritually.
“Who is Jesus?” I asked.
“He’s God’s son,” replied the Princess.
“Yeah, He died on the cross,” added the Pirate.
“And why did He die?” I questioned.
“To save us,” they responded in unison.
Okay, I thought. I’m doing something right as a parent. At least they know this much.
“And what was He saving us from?”
“From evil,” responded the Princess.
“What does ‘evil’ mean?” I asked.
“It means bad things or bad people,” the Pirate chimed in.
“Like when God sent the flood to kill all the evil people in the world. God didn’t like how they were acting so evil and bad, so he killed them. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights, and Noah sent the bird.” The Princess rattled off her remembrance without taking a breath.
“What’s another word for evil things people do?” I questioned. There was silence. “The evil Jesus was saving us from when He died on the cross was sin, and sins are the bad things that people do. Jesus died so that our sins would be forgiven and so that we could go to heaven when we die.”
From the rearview mirror, I could see the girls nodding their heads, signifying that they understood what I was saying. I decided to check for understanding verbally later. Right now, I just had to know.
“Today you said that you wanted to be baptized. Can you tell me why?”
“You had crackers and juice. I was just so thirsty!”
Well, there are two things I know for sure: 1) I have a lot more teaching to do, and 2) the Pirate understands that unless she gets baptized that cracker and juice at church are totally off-limits!