This Sunday, April 15, we’ll be baptizing our dear Eleanor Elisabeth at a special church service. In my religious background, infants were ‘dedicated’, and adults were ‘baptized’, such that there is still a reflexive redefinition of the latter as the former by members of my family. So let me be clear: we mean baptism, with water and everything (if anyone needs to be dedicated, it is her parents!).
When I was a formal student of religion, the momentous day came when I needed to choose who I thought should be baptized. It seemed that the entire church past and present was leaning toward me in eager anticipation of The Answer, and I was sweating a little bit. The New Testament certainly seems to allow that both adults and children were brought into contact with water to symbolize the washing away of the old life, and the entry into a new life that ordinary people can find in God. So making this important decision was a matter of looking at all of the Biblical evidence, perusing the significant arguments on both sides of the issue, and weighing in for oneself. Which I did, choosing the apparently friendly realm of the adult baptism crowd over the unfamiliar and seemingly airtight case for covenant made by the paedobaptists.
Which left me in good stead, and in perfect agreement with the churches where I attended (how convenient!). Until a couple of years ago, when some friends asked me to participate in the baptism of their kids, and I reconsidered my formerly hard-line stance. I noted the lack of clear teaching on the issue (most of the Bible’s citations were of events, rather than instruction) on the one hand, and the absolutely gorgeous symbolism on the other. As my friend put it much more eloquently, “God has poured out his grace on me, and I want to– however imperfectly– allow that grace to overflow onto my children.” Which seemed pretty compelling to me. So I’ll be pouring water over my little girl’s head as a vow of my intention to do so every day, and in every way, for as long as God gives me strength.
(Part of the baptism ceremony will involve the prayers and blessings of family and friends. For those who are not able to be with us, these words will be read. If you’d like to give The Girl such a gift, email her at ellastavlund [at] gmail (dot) com, or leave a comment below.)