We participated in a special ceremony at our church this Sunday to dedicate Kira to God. In some religions babies are baptized and this is a big ceremony the whole family and church celebrates. But we believe baptism should come after an individual has made a choice to follow Jesus, and a baby can’t do that yet, so we don’t baptize our babies. Instead we stand before our church and acknowledge that God has given this child to us to care for and love for Him. She belongs to Him, not us. We promise before our entire church that we will do our best to raise her by the instructions in the bible, and teach her about Jesus and the big sacrifice he made for us. Then the church prays for us and we rush the babies back to the nursery so they can be free to make all the joyful noises they have inside and not disturb the pastor’s message.
Making a promise to God is not a thing to take lightly. In fact, in the bible we are warned against making a promise because there’s no room to change the mind when making a promise to God, unless we are willing to face undesirable consequences. So we understand what a serious occasion this dedication was for us, as Kira’s parents. We stood four times before in front of congregations of people we know and love to make similar promises for our big growing boys, back when we could still hold them in our arms. I can say keeping this promise was not always easy to do. But God is generous with grace. He has not asked us to be perfect parents, just to stay on this winding, narrow garden path with Him while we raise our children. And he shines a bright light for us to know where to go if we are willing to follow His way. He does not leave us alone on a dark path, it is crowded with others going the same way. I am an ecstatic, joyful gardener.
Taking a probe and having a look around in the dirt where the roots of faith grow for my four boys, I can see evidence that we have stayed true to the promises we made for them. They have all chosen to follow Jesus with their lives, and have been baptized. Those are the outward signs of changes that have happened as they grow. I prefer to poke around and see how healthy the roots are, rather than the foliage up top where everyone can see. I like to know what’s moving around on the inside because that’s where faith is real, and that’s how they stay grounded. The decisions they make when no one is looking, those are the places I look to make sure they indeed are growing towards Jesus, the Son.
There’s no greater pleasure for me than to see the root depth of my children and recognize how other gardeners have come to care for them and this contributes to how they, my children, can become beautiful healthy fruit bearing plants. I know I am only one of the gardeners in their lives, an important one, but not the only one. And my main responsibility is to make sure I follow the “master gardener”. I am thankful to all the people who invest themselves in the lives of my children so they can experience the community of Christ followers. These are church leaders, adults who teach on Sunday morning, those who open their homes for a bible study in the evenings, those who take time off work to be leaders on mission trips, those who boldly correct my children when I am not there, those who have felt the urge to pray for a child of mine, or those who invite my children to their home because they are friends with their children. Thank you all for putting the hours in with knees on the ground and hands in the dirt so faith will grow in the hearts of my boys. I’m fascinated by the rapid growth of fruit I see, and it takes all of us to grow spiritually healthy children. I considered giving examples of the fruit I see, but it is too great a temptation to brag so I will pass on that opportunity. Just know, I know there are also plenty of weeds to pull out and bad fruit to toss on the compost pile.
And for our sweet Kira, we have some idea what we have promised to do. We are honored to walk that road and pray for the fruit she might bear some day, all so she can make the name of Jesus famous. There is great satisfaction in it for me to tend this garden while I strive to keep a sacred promise. And for the dirty work I do in her garden, for her seeds of faith to germinate, I need all of you to come along and water, sprinkle some fertilizer, protect her from the cold, comfort her in excessive heat, move the clouds aside and shine in some holy light, and even to make the time and effort to do the necessary pruning so she will flourish in her growth and knowledge of Jesus. Thank you in advance and welcome to her garden.