“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught..." Colossians 2:6-7
This weekend I took my eleven-year-old son, Josh, out to Chili's for dinner. It was a chance for me to revisit his desire to be baptized. For a few years he has been sporadically asking to be baptized. For a few years I have been saying "no." It's not that I don't want him to be baptized, I just didn't feel he was ready.
I am a baptist by conviction, not merely association. I believe, for a host of theological and exegetical reasons (reasons that would make for a horribly dull blog post), that baptism is a marker of allegiance, not a qualification for acceptance. It's like a varsity jacket. Wearing the jacket doesn't make you part of the team. You wear it because you are part of the team. Baptism has nothing to do with becoming a Christian and everything to do with declaring oneself to be a Christian, an external manifestation of an internal reality.
Because of this, I treat the decision to be baptized as a serious one. The internal should precede the external. A heart devoted to God, if sincere, will spill over into life in more ways than just a public immersion in water. It will be evident in behavior, attitude, and priorities. Even in failure, the internal devotion still spills over in repentance and confession.
Previously, I was reluctant to let Josh be baptized because I didn't see a lot of this spill over in his life. I was concerned that he was merely being pulled by the wake of his parent's faith. But riding a current, even the right current, is a dangerous foundation for faith. It doesn't take much to sway you in a new direction. I suspect this is why so many young people, raised in the church, leave when they are on their own. Their faith has been riding a wave, not rooted in soil. Those roots make all the difference.
When spring arrives in Upstate New York and the blanket of snow finally recedes, it reveals a landscape of bare trees and matted vegetation. The harsh affects of a punishing winter are evident. But as the weather warms and the days lengthen, the plants come back to life. Brown turns to green, bare branches are once again clothed, and new growth bursts forth. It would be a mistake to predict the potential for recovery from the wilted remains. Instead, life springs from a root system, hidden from sight, but undeterred by the long cold.
I hope to give my children those roots. Roots with tendrils that run deep into the soil of the Savior; a strong mooring that will serve them well through the seasons of life. For all the days of sunshine, they will also face days of dreary rain, or brutal cold, or turbulent wind. And even in sunshine, the heat can become oppressive. For these my children will need to be rooted deeply so that when the seasonal circumstances of life look barren, there will continue to be life beneath the surface.
Over chicken fingers and tostada chips I explained this to my son Josh, though not nearly so eloquently. And I was able to affirm that I see these roots developing. His faith is becoming his own. His priorities, attitudes, and actions reflect it. He'll be baptized soon. Baptized because he's been planted. Planted in the soil of a Savior who can carry him through the coldest winter into spring.
BLOG NEWS: This blog has always been intended as a greenhouse of sorts, a place where writing ideas can be planted and cultivated. The crop, if it's good enough, can be sent to market when the time is right. A significantly abbreviated version of this post was recently accepted for future use as a Mustard Seed Ministries on-line devotional. My review of Gary Chapman's Happily Ever After was accepted in an expanded version by New Wineskins webzine. My earlier post "Navigator in Focus" was accepted for use on "Our Daily Journey," a blog ministry of Radio Bible Class (publishers of Our Daily Bread). In addition, this past week I was guest blogger for The Upper Room, corresponding to the day I wrote a devotional for their print publication (written long before this blog was launched). All said, it's been a satisfying week as a writer. Thank you for your encouragement as a reader.