My 8-year-old daughter, Nee, was recently baptized. She decided to be a Christian during summer Vacation Bible School and informed her mother and me that she wanted to be baptized. When Nee let us know about her decision, K and I sat with her to discuss the importance of her choice. We also wanted make sure that she had made the decision without any prompting or pressure from her teachers and/or friends.
While we work daily to instill biblical values in our children, we also teach them that they have free will to make their own spiritual decisions. Excessive pressure from us could have the opposite effect. I know this point is true because I have experienced it in my own life.
While my sister and many of the other kids at our church were baptized shortly after their ninth birthday, I was not baptized until I was 18 years old. Each Sunday, I felt tremendous pressure to walk down the aisle when the pastor extended the invitation. I dreaded that point in the service because my mother would gently nudge me and point to the altar. I would discreetly move out of her reach and pretend to ignore her.
Eventually, my refusal to “join church” became an act of defiance. Although I had no choice in the matter when it came to attending church, I had absolute control over my decision to become a Christian. The battle between my soul and my flesh waged for many years. It wasn’t until an assistant pastor, whom I looked up to as a mentor, preached a stirring sermon that I finally relinquished my defiant spirit. If my life depended on it, I could not recall the topic of his sermon. All I can recall is that while he spoke, it seemed as if everyone else in the congregation vanished and he was speaking only to me.
When I stood up to walk to the altar, my mother wept and the entire congregation rejoiced. I even shed a few tears myself. It was as if I were the prodigal son who had finally returned home.
After that outpouring of feelings, the actual baptism was an emotional letdown. My family, the pastor, and a few people from church attended the ceremony (because our church was so small, we had to a larger church’s baptismal pool). Everyone sang “Wade In the Water,” the pastor said a few words and then dunked me in the pool. Later that day, I went to hang out at the mall with a couple of my friends.
At our current church, baptisms are a huge occasion. Once a month, several people are baptized during the regular worship service and once a quarter, we hold a special Baptism service. Each baptismal candidate must attend a special class (there are separate classes for children and adults). I attended the class with Nee because it was important that I was there, as her father, to shepherd her through this crucial time in her life.
On the day of the baptism, you could feel the excitement in the air as we got dressed for church. Both sets of Nee’s grandparents, as well as a slew of friends and family were present to witness the ceremony.
As Nee stepped into the pool (she was relieved that the water was warm), my heart was filled with fatherly pride. K stood backstage boo-hooing, overwhelmed with emotion.
We all met at our house to celebrate with a feast of chicken and waffles. Unfortunately, I had to leave early to catch a flight to Poland, but before I left, I let my daughter know that I was proud of her. Even more, I was pleased that she and I were now brother and sister in Christ.
Question: What religious ceremonies/rituals have your children experienced.