The truth is that I can worship without distraction, or I can parent. I can teach the boys how to behave in worship service, or I can worship on my own, but I cannot do both. I have to choose.
Although, parenting my children carefully and intentionally is a worship all its own. Loving them without condition, wiping noses, tying shoes, and feeding them… all worship.
But when my children are seated next to me in church, it’s not like I can close my eyes and hand my thoughts over to the praise of my heart – because who knows what could happen beside me when I am so enraptured and elsewhere in my mind?
I mean, really. Anything could happen.
I had prepped the boys, reminded them of expectations, of respect, of why we are there. We will celebrate and sing and be joyful, but we will not be distracting and silly and out of control. And although they may see other children with more freedom because their parents have different rules, the truth is that my children were born to me, and they have to follow my rules.
(This is a general rule to apply in many settings. Why can they do that and you can’t? Oh, because you are mine. And that’s how it goes.)
It was a Night of Worship at our church, an evening reserved for song after song of joyful thanks, pounding praise. And on this night, many were being baptized on the stage. There was a perpetual line of people to publicly profess their faith, to be immersed in the water and raised in new life. The congregation was electric, cheering for each person as they came up out of the water. Yes! You are a new creation, and we praise God with you!
It’s hard to describe the energy, the holy electricity in that room. It was palpable.
Tyler leaned over to me. “I want to do that.”
“We can talk more about it, buddy. We’ll do that when you’re older.”
(This is, by the way, a verbatim conversation I had with my mom when I was three years old, when I was sure of my faith and my belief in Jesus, and she wisely tried to delay my commitment until she could be sure that I could be sure. Understanding is a big piece, but so is childlike faith. As the story goes, I adamantly stomped my feet and said, “Mommy, do you want me to go to hell?” Well, apparently she gets it, folks. Let her ask Jesus into her heart.)
“No, Mommy, I want to do it now. Tonight. I want to be baptized.” (He says ‘babbitized.’)
“Tyler, I need for you to know what it means. We’re not going up there to be on the stage, to go swimming, to have people cheer. I need to know you know what it means.”
He stomped his feet adamantly. He furrowed his brow. He very nearly threw a temper tantrum. “It means I’m born again. It means I love God so much, and I want everyone to know.”
Well, apparently he gets it, folks. Who am I to stand between a spontaneous and fierce movement by the Holy Spirit in the heart of my child? I am no one to get in the way.
“Okay, Tyler. Let’s do it.”
I turned to Tucker and told him the plan.
His face was quizzical. “Well, he can if he wants to.” Tuck chose not to jump on the baptism bandwagon, which blessed my heart in an altogether different way. He knows what it means, and he knows that for him, the time is not now. Way to know, Tuck. I adore your quiet, sure spirit.
Meanwhile, Tyler – whom I adore for his free, sure spirit – was ready to go. Let’s do this thing, Mommy.
He wore a Tyler-sized baptism robe. He danced with excitement. “Mommy, are you so excited that I’m going to be baptized? Are you so excited? Is that why you’re crying?”
Yes. I am. And yes, that’s why.
Peter, my dear friend and care pastor, prayed with Tyler before we went onto the stage, under the lights, before the crowd for this profession of my son’s faith. I will never forget his words: “God, thank you that Tyler has heard you in his heart tonight. May he forever be so sure to listen and so quick to respond.”
We stepped out onto the stage as the band led us with ten thousand reasons for our hearts to find. Tyler walked up the steps and down into the baptistry. He couldn’t stop smiling.
I couldn’t stop crying.
Peter asked him, “Tyler do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?”
With his whole body, Tyler said, “Yes!”
“And have you placed your faith and trust in Him as your Lord and Savior?”
“Then, my friend, based on your confession of faith, it is my great, great privilege to baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
Under he went, and up he came, beaming, beaming, beaming. And the congregation cheered. And their celebration pales in comparison to the party happening in Heaven. I bet Robb bought a round for everyone.
Tyler stepped down the stairs and leapt into my arms with his entire, drippy self. He soaked me with his exuberance.
“Mommy! I want to do that again! I wish there were a place to get baptized, right by our house!”
It’s a one-time gig, kiddo. And you did it.
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“I have no great joy than to know my children are walking in truth.” I John 1:4