Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Baptism

And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name. Acts 22:16

Peter decided to be baptized. A friend of our family had gotten baptized during the Sunday morning service at church. We made sure Peter witnessed it first hand, hoping it would encourage him. Although both my boys had accepted Christ, Andrew died without experiencing baptism. I longed to share the experience with Peter. We’d discussed it several times and he understood what it meant. But it didn’t intrigue him, not until he saw Mark.

Once open to the idea we started to make plans. Our church did not baptize kids at the Sunday services and we would need special considerations for Peter’s physical needs anyway. Where? When? So many details to work out. I contacted family to discuss dates as we hoped they would join us. Our niece had also just expressed interest, unbeknownst to us. Wouldn’t it be cool if Peter and Kylie could do it together?

Plans took shape for a summer ceremony in our backyard. I saw God take over the details. We wanted to share the experience with our small group bible study members, being our spiritual family. It worked best for family to come over the July 4th week. Would our friends be able to come? Miraculously every family had the date open! Kylie wanted Gramma to baptize her. She and Grampa would stay at a hotel as our house would be full. Peter decided he wanted me to baptize him. That made me cry; I was so honored. The details continued to come together.

As summer began and the time drew near, Kylie turned 13! A teenager! I wanted to give her something significant to honor the milestone – a piece of real jewelry perhaps, to confirm her progress towards maturity. My husband shopped with me and we selected an amethyst heart shaped necklace and earrings. They actually matched a ruby set he had given me years prior. It was a good choice.

As I thought about it the next day the color made me smile. We’d chosen it because Kylie always liked purple. But as I pictured it in my mind, I heard God whisper, purple is the color of royalty. She has given her heart to the King. I loved the meaning God had assigned to the jewelry and could not wait to share it with Kylie when we gave it to her.

I wanted to get something for Peter as well, but nothing felt right. His Gramma had gotten a bible for him, the only idea I’d come up with so far. He disliked the cross necklace I showed him. He already had a watch. My mind stayed blank.

Finally everyone arrived in stages, some days before the event, some the actual day before the event. Peter’s aunt Tanya arrived with a faith bracelet for Peter- the Christian fish symbol in silver on a black leather cord. It was perfect! It made me jealous that I still had not thought of a gift for him. I vented my frustration to God one night in prayer, and had to pause in obedience as again God took over.

You have the jewelry for Kylie and it’s right that Tanya has the jewelry for Peter. This is a family ceremony, a family event. You are a family intertwined in faith as well as blood. Have your husband give Kylie the necklace while you explain the meaning. Tanya can give Peter the bracelet while you explain it to him. This faith bracelet shows what defines his life. His faith is eternal and will never end.

I humbly submitted to God’s plan, excited about the truths he wanted me to convey.

As I continued that night to think about the ceremony and what else should be involved, he reminded me of a passage in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. Peter and I had just finished reading it that spring and our bible study small group had referenced the same passage as well just recently. God brought all the details together. Time to execute!

The day of the ceremony brought clear sunny skies. The pool water had warmed. Food preparations were completed and ceremony roles assigned. Peter selected his favorite worship song to begin the ceremony, Here I am to Worship. Then my husband shared with the group out of Romans. He discussed what baptism meant, a symbolic ritual for being buried with Christ and then risen, cleansed of sin.

Then he shared the reading from the Dawn Treader story. In this passage Eustace has become a dragon, reflecting the greed, selfishness and sin in his heart. Finally recognizing the truth about himself, he longs to be free but is unable to return to humanity. Aslan visits him one night and leads him to a high mountain pool. There Eustace tries three times to shed his dragon skin, but never can he reach deep enough. Finally he submits to Aslan who alone is able to free the boy. After removing Eustace from the dragon skin, he places him into the mountain pool refreshing him, washing him, cleansing him. When Aslan brings him up out of the water, he then dresses him with new clothes. Such a beautiful portrayal of all Christ does for us.

Peter decided to go first so we climbed into the pool. He explained his belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and proclaimed his dependence upon Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins and restoration to right relationship with God the Father. As I baptized him, I basically caught him for he eagerly threw himself back into the water, eager to embrace his burial and resurrection into God’s family.

Once wrapped in a towel and back in his chair, Tanya came with his bracelet, his “new clothes” like in the story. I explained how so many times his life seemed to be defined by the disease labeled on his medical ID bracelet. But that was not the truth. He had given his heart to Jesus and was now a child of God. This bracelet bore a symbol of his Christian faith. His belief in Jesus Christ was what defined his life. Everything about the medical ID bracelet was earthly and temporal and would one day end. But his faith, his being a child of God, was eternal and would never end. THIS was who he is, Peter, the son of God!

Kylie went next. She shared with our family and friends how God had drawn her to himself and touched her life. She declared her belief in Jesus and acceptance of his free gift of grace. With Gramma’s help she too was buried in baptism waters, and resurrected into new life, cleansed of her sins.

Once out of the water, the ceremony continued. We’d already given Kylie the earrings and asked her to wear them that night. My husband came and placed the necklace around her neck while I shared the meaning God had assigned to it. I pointed out that the heart shape signified her own heart, the color purple, the color of royalty. This necklace should remind her that she’s given her heart to the King of Kings. She is a princess, a daughter of God. Every choice she makes as she navigates her teen years and becomes a woman of God should be founded on the reality of being part of the royal family of God. I encouraged her to wear it well and make her King proud.

We concluded the ceremony with Kylie’s favorite worship song, O Happy Day.

It was an amazing ceremony, full of pageantry, meaning, and beauty. There were tears, significance, honor and glory. God was in the details. He’d brought it all together. Both kids knew they had God in their lives, knew they had taken an important step in their faith that day, knew that they would never be the same. They knew they would be forever joined in their faith through eternity.

We had no idea just how important that bond would become. Almost 5 months to the day, Peter acted on that promise that his disease was indeed temporal and he moved to his heavenly home. The beauty and significance of that ceremony brought much comfort during that difficult time of saying goodbye and the following days of learning how to live without him. As parents it encouraged us to have witnessed his ownership of his faith. For Kylie, it cemented her hope of seeing him again. They had been joined through family and faith on this earth, and would live eternally joined to God one day in heaven.

God loves ceremony. He loves symbolism. He loves details. And he knows in advance what we will need. We serve a truly awesome God!

1 comment:

  1. Wow Juli, such a wonderful story, you took my breath away! What a young man Peter grew to be, and your love and pride is so apparent. Thank you for sharing.

    With love and hope, Carol

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