One whole trip around the sun. That’s how long he’s been a Christian.
A year ago we gathered with old and new friends, family from near and far. My mother and I dressed my six-week old son in the baptismal gown that four generations of my family have worn.
And a young deacon, an-almost priest we met as he journeyed through seminary, rolled up the sleeves of his alb, nervously took the squirmy baby from my arms, and plunged him deep into the waters of new life.
He came up wide-eyed and gave a small yelp. We all smiled.
Everyone likes when the baby cries, my mother whispered. That’s how they know the baptism “took.”
Last weekend we watched a baptism from the back of church while that same boy, now a year old and a thousand times squirmier, crawled around the gathering space. I listened as the pastor asked parents and godparents the old familiar questions we’ve heard a thousand times before.
What name do you give your child? What do you ask of the Church for your child? Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?
The priest chuckled at the last question, paused and turned to the congregation. “I always laugh when I ask parents that one. As if they have any clue at all what they’re getting into.”
I looked down at our boy. I thought about the letter I wrote him one year ago. Do I clearly understand what I am undertaking? Trying to raise him in this church, trying to raise him in any kind of faith when all the headlines scream that it’s becoming more unpopular by the day?
Not at all. Maybe none of us do.
But I’m trying. Deep in my bones I believe this is the most important thing I’m trying to do as a parent, to awaken my children to the possibilities of faith and a life lived for others.
And isn’t that what most mothers and fathers do – parent towards possibility? No matter our child’s age or ability, no matter their stage or situation, we always dream of the possibilities, what they might do and achieve and become. Baptism’s like that, too. We are welcomed into a community that has great hopes for us, called by God who dreams of all we might become.
But baptism also celebrates the simple fact of being beloved. Of knowing that we need not achieve to be worthy nor succeed to be faithful. My hopes for what he comes to believe about his faith rest between this tension: I hope it will inspire him to do and remind him to be.
When I think on my boy’s baptism anniversary of what it means to have smeared that chrism on his forehead and named him a child of God, I wonder what knowledge his own bones hold from that moment. None of us remember the first year of life. And yet he knows many things, deeply.
He knows he is loved. He knows the people he loves. He knows he has always been cared for. All of that will help him learn how he is beloved by God, no matter where he goes or what he does. I hope the memory of that belovedness is his lasting gift.
That will be how I know the baptism took.