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September 19, 2007

A Joyful Sign

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth!
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
- Psalm 100 (New International Version)

**

Baptisms are mysterious things, in that you never really know whether they’re effective.

At our church, infant baptism is seen primarily as a ceremony of commitment for the child’s parents, and by extension, the entire congregation. The parents vow to teach their child about the Christian faith and pass their spiritual beliefs along. The congregation vows to support the parents towards that goal. Then once the child is older, he will make an independent decision to become a Christian based on what he has learned and on the role models who have influenced him.

However, it’s not a guarantee. The act of baptizing a baby doesn’t bestow any sort of magical protection upon him, and it doesn’t ensure that the child won’t someday stray into trouble or spiritual isolation. That’s why you never know for sure if it really means anything. For all we know, it may be entirely inconsequential.

The best you can do is look for signs.

When our first child was baptized, his grandmother read Psalm 100 during the church ceremony. It seemed to perfectly describe the joy of welcoming a child to the world, gratitude for receiving such a magnificent gift, and the responsibility of raising him to remain a child of God.

Fast forward nine years or so, to a service last month at the same church where this boy was baptized:

Twice per year, our church has a “Youth Sunday” that is organized by the youth ministers. Children of various ages, from the high school group to elementary school kids, participate with the readings and prayers.

And for his scripture reading, my son was assigned Psalm 100.

So almost a decade after we held our baby and declared the psalm as a blessing onto him, my wife and I had the honor of watching our son stand at the same podium and recite it himself. As he read, I couldn’t help but think that this must be some kind of sign that, at least for the time being, the kid is headed down the right path. It’s not a guarantee of anything to come – but in spiritual terms, it’s probably as close to a conclusive affirmation as you can ask for.

This started out as a much longer post. I thought I’d use the baptism as an analogy for my triathlon exploits: something I expose my children to from an early age, then teach and model through my behavior as they grow, and hope that they choose a similar path for themselves when they’re old enough to make up their minds.

But after I typed it, I thought the baptism story stood rather nicely on its own. And just because I can relate anything to triathlon doesn’t mean that I should. Sometimes it’s just better to leave well enough alone.

So that’s how I’m ending for today.

15 comments:

Backofpack 9/19/07, 7:09 PM  

Donald,
That story brought tears to my eyes - such a poignant moment in the life of a parent.

I believe there are many signs that our children are on the right path - those small acts of kindness we see, the loving gesture to a sibling, cousin or grandparent, the generosity, the joyfulness, the enthusiasm for life. The hope in their eyes when they look at you, their dreams for the future, their affirmation of love. They give us so much, they are so fragile and yet so resilient.

Children are the best thing that ever happened to me - that and sharing a life and their lives with their father.

21stCenturyMom 9/19/07, 7:50 PM  

You chose well. That was a lovely story full of joy, love, spirituality and a little bit of harmonic convergence. Nice.

Anne 9/20/07, 5:22 AM  

Some stories can carry their own, and this is one of them. A lot of things will start to come full circle soon in your family. It's a nice feeling with it happens, as you've discovered.

Taryn 9/20/07, 8:26 AM  

I definitely agree that his being assigned the psalm means he's where he is supposed to be! I believe those little coincidences mean big things!

Addy 9/21/07, 4:26 PM  

nicely stated. The story does indeed stand well alone :)

Thanks for sharing!

rick 9/21/07, 5:19 PM  

Must be an amazing thing to see that Psalm recited, first by the grandmother then the child himself. I like that children are given a chance to go through the baptism rites once more at your church. They can experience it for themselves. I was baptized as a child and then I choose to go through it again 6 years ago. The fact that he's doing so well is also a testament to you and your wife and the family as a whole.

craig 9/21/07, 6:41 PM  

I'm struck by the relationship between this post and the one which preceeded it. We never know what will influence the decisions our children make or the path that they ultimately choose. Sometimes that happens rather unconsciously.

But as parents we also make a conscious decision to expose them to experiences and influences which we hope will help them as they make decisions and their way through life.

But you are right. There are no guarantees.

Spokane Al 9/21/07, 10:09 PM  

I really liked your idea of looking for signs. We set our children out on a path that seems right and good and hopefully serve as solid role models, and try our best to be there when the signs indicate a course correction is in order.

It sounds like you and your wife are doing a fine, fine job so far.

Darrell 10/13/07, 9:17 PM  

Right on, Donald. No need for a training tie in. Congrats on being a role model to your kids in every aspect of their lives.

As parents we do the best we can and hope that something good "sticks".

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