–by Osheta Moore
My oldest son Tyson and I were in the car when he broke the news to me.
“Mom,” he started, “what if I didn’t get baptized on Sunday with Trinity and TJ?”
The heavy techno beat of his playlist filled the minivan and gave my racing heart a rhythm to hold onto.
“Well… ok…” I stammered. I wasn’t sure what to do?
When I was his age, being a Christian was my ultimate rebellion and declaration of independence from my parents’ way of being. I lived out my faith in Jesus with a conviction that took Jesus Freak to a whole new level.
WWJD bracelets? Yep.
See You at the Pole? Of course!
Did I carry around Invitations to Wednesday Night Youth Group? Uh-huh. In fact, way before I entered sales, I perfected the holiest elevator pitch- eva!
Passionate speeches during health class that I’m waiting until marriage before having sex? Oh, yeah, and I had extra True Love Waits pledges in my bag to pass out.
I was as “on fire,” “sold out,” and “Jesus Freak-y” as they come. Which is why I couldn’t understand the words coming from my son who I’ve spent twelve years teaching about Jesus.
Realizing that I didn’t know what to say, he added, “It’s not that I’m saying I never want to get baptized, I just don’t want to do it now. I have so many questions about Jesus and the Bible and I’m not ready to make that commitment until I’m sure. Maybe when I’m 13….” He trailed off, playing with the hem of his shirt.
I wanted to pull over and shake him.
What is wrong with you? Don’t you remember VBS of 2010 where you had the best, most poignant “God-sightings” to share with your crew? What about being prayed for by a camp counselor at sleep-away camp last year? What about your crazy astute insights on the problem of evil or end times? How do you come from two theology nerds and NOT WANT TO BE A CHRISTIAN?
Then I started to worry if it was my fault. Did my angry outbursts just an hour after they saw me doing my morning quiet time read hypocrite? Were we wrong to church plant those three years knowing that children’s ministries are almost always anemic in programming and there were precious few kids their ages? Did we miss a chance to give him the foundation he needed in those tumultuous years? Should I have forced him to watch more Veggie Tales and less Little Einsteins?
I wanted something or someone to blame for this “failure.”
“Mom?” he asked. “Mom? Are…are you mad?”
I shook my head as realization dawned on me: he needed me to love him through this time of seeking, not shame him or myself. There is no place for shame on the road map to Jesus.
“No, baby. I’m not mad. This is your choice. Only you and Jesus know when it’s the right time for you to follow him and get baptized. If you’re not ready, you’re not ready.” I sighed. Saying the words felt like both a betrayal and a benediction.
“But, are you sure? I know you really wanted me to get baptized,” he offered.
We pulled into our parking spot and I turned to him. “I’m not going to lie, I wish you would, but I don’t want you doing it because I asked you to. I want this moment to be yours. Yours and Jesus’. After all, I follow him because I love him so much, maybe someday you will too. But there are a few ground rules your dad and I have to come up with because you are still a part of Christian family–”
“I know, I know!” He interrupted, a little loud and exasperated. When I shot him a displeased look, he changed his tone. “I know,” he promised.
“Yeah, well as long as you celebrate your siblings’ choice and you participate in church this Sunday, I’m cool with you not getting baptized.”
He released the breath I just then realized he was holding from the moment he said, “I’m not ready.”
For the next few days, my husband and I talked over the implications of one child out of three not getting baptized. What would people think? We are a pastor’s family, after all. How do we not treat him differently? Should we still encourage him to learn Scriptures? What if he wants to explore other religions?
I think we always knew that two out-spoken questioners starting a family would result in one (or more) children taking their time to become believers, so we weren’t worried, just a little sad. A little disappointed. We wanted so badly to celebrate him with his siblings.
After the baptisms, we did tell him that he’s a part of a Christian family, so we’ll follow Christian rhythms of prayers and Sunday morning services, devotionals and social justice, worship music and discussing Bonhoeffer. Not surprisingly, he’s ok with that. It’s not us he’s rejecting and I suspect it’s not even Jesus, it’s just the timing. He wants this to be his choice, and so do I. So I will wait for Tyson to come around. I’ll wait for him because it wasn’t too long ago that Jesus waited for me to come back and when I did I was all in. I have a feeling that deep down that’s what we all want for our children — to not borrow our faith, but make it their own and jump into this crazy calling to love the world like Jesus with an “all in” kind of abandon. Tyson will get there. Someday.