“Mom, remember what I said last night?”
“You mean two nights ago?”
“I don’t want to be mean any more.”
“Well, what do you need to do, Christopher?”
“Have God come live in my heart.”
“Why? What did Jesus do for you?”
“He died on the cross.”
“Is He still dead?”
“No! He raised from the dead.”
“So, are you ready for Jesus to be your Savior – King of your life?”
“Okay, let’s count the cost.”
We went on to talk about how, just like Paul struggled and wrote about in Romans 7, he would struggle with sinning still, but when he asked Jesus for forgiveness – truly repenting – He would faithfully do so. We talked about what building a relationship with Jesus daily looked like. We talked about how life will not always be easy, but just like James says, we can count it all as joy and grow in our faith – our relationship with Jesus – during those hard times. Finally we discussed what our lives are all about as Christians. No matter what God calls Christopher to do or be as he grows up, his purpose in life is to tell others about Christ and how much Jesus loves them.
And so I asked, “Christopher, are you still ready to ask Jesus to be your Savior – your King – and be baptized?”
We waited until Dad got home, and Christopher had “the talk” with him. Dad would later say how surprised he was when Christopher walked up to him and stated his desire to become a Christian. It wasn’t because we hadn’t been discussing this with him; we had, in fact, been talking with him for months now. Maybe it was because Christopher had been thinking about it and had woken with a strong resolution to be Christ’s that day. Maybe it was because Dad’s 8 year old had excitedly come up the stairs and announced boldly before anything else could be said, “I want to be baptized!” Nathan had asked if he wanted to wait until the next day since it was kind of last minute, but Christopher had already been dancing around singing, “I’m getting baptized today!” So, June 5 it was! Though there would be further lessons along the way – just in the next 4 hours!
How does a parent know, that when faced with the reality of dying to your old self and being born in the newness of Christ, your child might just really be afraid? I don’t know how they know; we didn’t! So, we gathered together with a small group of friends, and Nathan told of Christopher’s journey to Christ. The water, by the way, was freezing, causing Dad’s toes to go numb! Christopher entered the water with his dad, who would have the highest of honor of baptizing his first born son! Both guys stood there laughing and shivering over the frigid temperature. Then came time for the actual baptism.
We had talked with Christopher on what this act would mean – giving him the same message Nicodemus received. Christopher had witnessed one of his best friends going under the waters just weeks before, and he had been present to several others. So, he was very excited about this being “his turn!” When Dad said to put his hand over his mouth and nose and then began to lean him back, fear gripped him! We had been preparing to lead Christopher to Christ – even preparing to disciple him, but we had not been prepared to lead him into “death”.
To make a 20 minute baptism for one person short, I will just say he finally went fully under and came fully up! Everyone cheered – hopefully out of his act rather than just thinking “finally!” He stood shaking for quite awhile – from the cold and from the experience. When asked if he was happy about his decision, he nodded yes with a solemn smile on his face. Quite frankly, his Momma stood shaken for a good while afterwards. I just hadn’t expected that. I didn’t even know if I needed to address it with him.
After a crazy set of minutes gathering my 4 into the van, with cries and screams and an emergency prayer for His Spirit to fill, we headed home. We unloaded the van, got into the house in time for lunch, and finally the explanation came. He didn’t use a lot of words; I would have missed it, actually, if I hadn’t been paying close attention.
“What does it feel like to be a new person, Christopher?”
“Hmm, I’m still me. I didn’t die.”
“I mean new on the inside; you know, because Jesus lives in you now.”
He smiled real big and gave me a thumbs up. I couldn’t help but back up, though. “I didn’t die.” Christopher had really been terrified of actually dying when he went under water. He knew he’d come back up; he’d seen others come up alive and well. What he didn’t know was what would happen under that water the one second he was under. I have been pondering those words and his actions for days now. I remember his face and his eyes, the way they spelled out his fear clearly. I remember the way his body shook from the cold and the fright. I know now, he was scared of dying. All I can think is, so am I.
When desires and rights and wills must be laid down, I shake scared. I stand there, for a long time, just plain fearful of what the dying will be like and if I’ll really rise and live when it’s all done. I sometimes voice my concerns, just like Christopher did, saying, “No, no, no!” What if these dreams and desires I let die leave me lacking? What if I hand them over to God only to find nothing better actually occurs? Will I always sense a void where those dreams once lived? Will God really give me abundant life from death?
I realize that this fear of death will be the first of many times when Christopher will have to trust that God is with Him and does have the best “life” in mind for him. I also know that this fear of death is ever my reality. It is not a fear of physical death. My fears lie in the daily dying to self in order to truly live in Christ. The earth for the eternal. The dreams of a child for the desires of daughter of God. The lusts of the flesh for the love of the Bridegroom. The lowly wills of my heart for the higher ways of His. Sometimes those waters are cold as ice, and I can’t feel anything. Sometimes those waters are hot as fire and I feel – oh how I feel. I feel the ice of me melting away, and the sin of me pushing to the top like dross. In the heat of that moment, Christ’s loving hand wipes all away and makes me clean.
11-12“I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I’m a mere stagehand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned. Matthew 3 The Message
*Christopher is really beginning this journey in Christ! He has an awareness of Christ living in him, and it’s pretty great to watch! Christopher’s fear is a core issue in his life, one that affects not only his spiritual decisions but his academic and social decisions as well. I am thankful that God has made me conscious of this issue in him, and I am praying for wisdom and guidance as I train him spiritually, emotionally, and academically. I am encouraged, though, so very encouraged – Christopher told me a couple of days after he was baptized that he wants his brothers to get baptized too! See, he’s already got a mission field – he and I, we’ll learn together and serve together. Selah.