Every night I put my almost eleven month old son in his pajamas, settle into the rocking chair in his room and nurse him as I sing. I sing lots of songs, from Billy Joel to Broadway musicals, but my favorite are hymns. Last night I sang him “Jesus Loves Me,” “Be Thou My Vision,” and “Father Welcomes All His Children”. He smiled up at me and listened very intently as I told him how much mommy loves him, but “can you believe it? There’s someone who loves you even more than I can! . . . Jesus!” And then I started thinking about today (what was then tomorrow) the 22nd of October. Today is the anniversary of my baptism. Born on October 4th, I was only eighteen days old at the time. I don’t remember the occasion. I can only recall who was there from pictures taken at the front of the sanctuary. Our pastor, my grandparents, my parents, my older sister in a wonderfully “nineties” dress, and my Godparents all smiled and took turns holding tiny little me.
I don’t remember it, but that was a day that changed my whole life. It is, what I believe to be the most important day of my life. On that day, I was adopted into God’s family; I was given faith and the Holy Spirit, in shockingly simple means. Water. Word. He only needed those two elements to completely change not only my earthly life but secure my eternal life as well. Since that day I’ve changed and grown from a helpless baby into a mother of my own baby. And yet, in many ways, I’ve still been utterly helpless. I’ve encountered suffering, grief, and uncertainty. I’ve faced temptation and committed countless sins, as all have. But what has not changed or been uncertain, is the heavenly Father who made me His own all those years ago. And the faith that He gave to me has held fast, reaching into the depths of my lowest lows, when I thought I could not face tomorrow, and calming my heart with the same promise that He gave me in my baptism. That I am His. That in baptism all my sins were not only forgiven, but that my sins were placed on Jesus Christ on the cross and in exchange, His righteousness was placed on me. And that one day I will share in the heavenly feast with all the saints.
The faith given to me in Baptism has also given me my view on the world and how to face the confusion it offers. By faith, I know that truth is not relative. By faith, I know that every human life has value and is precious to God. By faith, I know that God doesn’t require my good works, because He doesn’t need them. But by faith, I know my neighbor does need them. So that same faith urges me to love, to serve, to use what gifts I have for someone else. By faith I know that when suffering occurs, it is not God’s doing but the curse of sin on this earth. Every situation I face personally, every news story I see, and everything I do, is shaped by these truths, by my faith. These truths have offered me peace when everything I saw and felt seemed hopeless. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” John 14:27. Every trial I’ve faced in my life that I thought might be the end of me, inevitably gave way to this peace that passes all understanding. That’s not because I’ve done anything to earn it or that I know enough about it, but because God gifted me that peace in the waters of baptism.
As I rocked my son last night and sang to him, I was overwhelmed by love for him. Parents reading this may find familiar this unspeakable urge to protect their child and give them their best in everything. As I sang “Father Welcomes All His Children,” it struck me that though my vocation of loving and protecting him will never end, I have already given him the best gift I could. His father and I brought him to the waters of baptism when he was just over a month old. There God granted him all the gifts I received those many years ago. As a mother, I find myself wishing and hoping he’ll never face any of the trials I have, that he will never know pain or grief. But he will. This is a fallen, sinful world and God makes no promises that we as believers will be exempt from the results of that (rather, we will often see more suffering as Christians). But He does promise that His Word never returns empty and that it is eternal and unchanging and more powerful than death itself. That word made me his child over two decades ago in the same way that it did my son eleven months ago. Now we both are joined to Christ’s death and resurrection. As a human facing my own uncertainties and as a mother facing the uncertainty of raising a son in an often frightening world, baptism has offered me a peace I’ll never find the words to express. Thanks be to God.
-The featured image is the sweater and bonnet worn by both me and my son at our baptisms and the certificate, cloth, and candle from his baptism.