Last night was one of those nights I'll never forget, and I will always be thankful to my wife, Gina, for capturing it all on video. After the Baptism, Noah asked me why I was crying, and that it made him sad to see me sad. I love his heart, and his sensitivity. I explained to Noah that in life, there are tears of sadness, and then there are tears of joy, and mine were the latter. Let me explain.
When I was very young boy, maybe no more than 4, possibly 5, I knew the Lord God. I looked for him to come riding on the clouds, and distinctly recall laying on the grass in our back yard on Pelletier, thinking I could see Him. I remember talking and mostly yelling at Him when I got in trouble, thinking a loving Father, would surely not subject me to such hurts. BUT, I know now that despite my negativity, and despite how little I understood about God, I was actually in a relationship with Him as far back as my conscious mind could reach. I don't know why He chose me- to call me into a relationship with him at such a young age, but what can I say; other than "Thank-you Jesus." Of course, I am eternally grateful that he used the love of those who have loved me over the years to do the planting, the watering, and the "sun-shining"- to provide me the environment to bring me closer to him. In particular, I thank my Mommy, my Grampie and my Grammie for introducing me to church, for each doing their part to encourage in me a realization and respect for the Holiness of God; I was no angelic child, and so going to church was a chore, and something I deeply disliked, but I thank the Lord for always having a tighter grasp on me than I had on Him. To this day, I thank Him for displaying just that kind of patience, loyalty, and love for me. Skip forward to 2004. I met a lovely woman of God through my work- Patricia Valdez. It was also at that time that the movie, "The Passion of Christ" came out. Both those influences helped change and shape me in ways that I believe can't be undone. In the years leading up to that time in my life, I had long pondered the meaning of life, the question of truth, and the question of how do I become "better", in the absolute, not the relative sense. I had spent some time thumbing through books on various religions, philosophies, and hung on the words of famous people, all mostly musicians from whom I thought I could get wisdom and unlock the secrets of life. Not until I heard for the fist time in the movie where Pilate asks Jesus the Question, "What is truth?", did the Holy Spirit come like a rushing wind into my heart. Now, I can't recall whether it was in the movie, although it is certainly in scripture where Jesus says, "I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through Me." (John 14:6) that I was shaken to my core. It was at that time, I begun to understand that Christ, or the Word who became flesh, is the meaning of life; and, if I want to know that meaning, I had to leave all the former "places" I had gone to find Him.
Jumping ahead to 2014, I had been praying, asking God to find a church for me and my family. My spirit started to weight heavy about the fact that I, as the spiritual leader of my home was derelict in my responsibility to lead my wife, and my children to Christ. I am embarrassed to say that my children had no concept of God, expect in the general sense. I was too much of a coward to say, "Okay gang, we're going to church." I secretly wondered what kind of odd stares I'd get from everyone, not to mention the worry I had about driving my family away from God; and then, just as the Spirit of God has always done in my life, He made an opening. I thank Him for putting His will in Gina's heart, when one day she suggested (without us even having really discussed it), "Why don't we give the Heights church another try? We sit around on Saturday evenings, and have nothing to do." Now, it had been years since we had gone to church- 2007 to be exact, and Gina and I had a very different perspective from one another in those days what church was. In fact, one of our biggest arguments came in 2007 on the heels of us going to a church that simply was not going to be one Gina wanted to attend, and she told me matter of factly after the service, "If you want to go, you go, but I'm not." And to her credit, she was right. The kids were babies , or at least very young, and there was no way we were going to keep 2 very young kids "at bay" through a service that was very, very traditional. I recall both kids acting up, and Gina being the loving and doting mother she's always been, took the kids outside, changed diapers, and then sat in the car fuming, as I spent the next 20 mins. finishing out the service. Nothing wrong with the church or the service, it just wasn't going to be for us. Back to the point of all of this- I thank God once again for such a wonderful wife. He spoke His word through Gina, and basically made my cowardly thinking on the subject a moot issue. Oh, how He loves us!
Skipping ahead since that time, we are all growing in Christ. I am very proud to see my children, developing an awareness, an interest, and a grasp on who this King of Kings is. We do devotionals at dinner, we say Grace; I mostly lead the family in Grace, but stand in awe and deep gratitude to the Lord for putting words of thanksgiving in the little minds and mouths of my children, who will, on occasion, lead our family in prayer. The kids love going to church, or for the most part they do- after all, they are still children, right? A few weeks ago, Emily came home saying there is a new after school program at her school for kids to meet to discuss Christ, to grow in their knowledge of Him, and to do have a good time in the company of each other while so doing. You can't imagine my joy over my daughter, making that choice. I am so proud of her.
And oh yes, lest I forget, in more recent times, a couple months back, Ben and Emily approached Gina and me about wanting to get Baptized. This came clear out of the blue to us, but was really the result of one of the youth ministers talking with the kids at church about baptism, the meaning of baptism, and so forth. Both kids expressed a desire to be baptized, and I would be lying if I didn't say that that was another area (Baptism) that up until that time, had caused me some soul stirring and torment. Keep in mind, as Gina referenced in her post from yesterday, that both of us were baptized in a Catholic church as babies. I had always struggled with the question of whether my baptism as a baby was sufficient. However, everything I've come across in scripture seemed to point to baptism as a conscious act of obedience that follows from believing in Christ as the only One who can wash our sins away, through the blood of his sacrifice, and ultimately renew us and reconcile us to Him in his spotless and blameless perfection. And so I struggled with this question, "Have I been obedient to Him in this regard, or haven't I?" Added to this spiritual dilemma was my father-in-law who I respect, admire, and love for a number of reasons; but, who has really prodded me a handful of times over the past several years to consider getting the kids baptized. I resisted him at every turn, telling him "I want the kids to make that choice on their own," while secretly admitting to myself that I was scared of the very real possibility that even with Gina and I doing everything we can at this stage of their lives to promote Christ to them, they might ultimately reject Him, and have no desire to form or enter into a relationship with Him, let alone take Him as their Lord, Savior, and Redeemer.
And then what do you know? As always, the Lord took this spiritual and mental conundrum of mine and counted it for nothing; He yet again paved the way for 2 of my 3 kids (thus far anyway) to make that decision on their own, and basically said to me in my heart, "David, what excuse have you now? Haven't I paved the way, took what was crooked and made it straight? What obstacle prevents you from getting baptized, as the spiritual leader of your home, as the husband to your wife, and as the father to your children, and as my son?" The 3 of us went to a baptism class last week where we all got "steeped" in what baptism is and is not. Though I initially thought both kids were barely getting the gist of what Baptism is- our death, burial, and resurrection to new life in and with Christ, and taking what we know privately to be true out into the open, and with no shame about our life in Christ and Him in us; they- my children yet again surprised and amazed me. Prior to going through the baptism, the kids and I were each individually and separately interviewed by the pastor to get a gauge on what we understood and believed about baptism. Emily and Ben were both steadfast in their understanding and belief that Christ is their Lord and Savior, that he took away their sins, and baptism is the manifestation of what they believe, made public. Their ability to articulate this idea to the pastor in their own words- well, let me just say, I was brimming with pride.
And so, there you have my answer to Noah's question about the reasons I was crying. I cried not out of fear, not out of sadness, but out of heartfelt gratitude to the Lord my God for everything He has done for me and my family in bringing us as individuals and as a family into an eternal relationship with Him. What could be better than having that kind of life? Life without Christ (not any substitutes) is no life at all- as it is written, "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only True God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3) And finally, as it also written, "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve....But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15)