During a recent baptism service, my 5-year-old had a difficult time keeping still and staying quiet. At one point, when her 7-year-old sister poked her, she said, “Stop touching me.” I hoped nobody heard the commotion. I scolded both of them and then re-trained my focus on the pastor and the baptismal.
It isn’t easy sitting in church with little ones. Our church usually has a place for the children during service, but during baptism services all the workers from the nursery and children’t ministries are invited into the room to help celebrate. This leaves parents to watch their own children. Normally that’s not a problem for me; usually I’m happy to have my children sit next to me, or on my lap, during a church service.
But my 5-year-old girl has an extra amount of wiggliness. She doesn’t always remember to use her quiet voice, and she is generally impatient. “When is it going to be over,” if asked by this daughter more than I recall the same question being asked by my other children when they were her age.
Just when my patience was wearing thin, when my concern that she might be disturbing others in the congregation, she said something that made my heart rejoice. She looked up toward the front of the sanctuary and at the person standing in the baptismal holding a microphone and giving thier testimony. She said, “When I’m bigger I’m going to do that. Everyone in this church does that when their bigger.”
I realize that my daughter has an insufficient understanding of baptism. I know she only understands baptism as standing in front of the church body and saying some words, then going under the water and coming up to applause.
But I also realized something else when she spoke about baptism. It became apparent to me that she is paying attention to more than I know, she is learning more than I give her credit for, she is being shaped and molded by what is happening in the church service. Her wiggles, noises, and impatience are being worked on, but more importantly, her understanding of what it means to be a part of the local body of Christ is being worked on – not by me as much as by the example she sees as she looks around each time we are in church together.