Denver was gone a few weekends ago and the kids and I took a Friday night excision to Target to get Valentines for their class parties. It was my plan to make a night out of it, peruse Target and surprise them with a Chickfila dinner; except I over spent at Target so we came home for a nutritious dinner of easy-mac and apples.
I was pushing the semi-cart through Target; you know the one that has two toddler seats and then an 8 foot expanse before the cart attaches; that’s a “semi-cart”. (I swear it needs blinkers and a beeper for backing up, and possibly a CDL to drive it.) Zadie always begs to get the big cart, and I usually decline her request, but this night I was feeling extra brave. After hitting up the Valentine department and talking the kids down from “Fun Dip” Valentines and gigantic Hershey Kisses, I had a few essentials I needed to get… specifically: 1 large plastic tub, a velcro bath towel and cat food. Of course on my mission to acquire my items, we made three trips around the store, because that’s how you DO Target. As we kept passing the girls bathing suits Zadie kept oooooing and awwwwing over them. She has a weakness for bathing suits, and I am pretty sure she had around 5 bathing suits by the end of last summer; she is relentless (and my mom can’t say no).
As we passed by for the third time, she picked out a cute little bikini that caught her eye. “Oooooh, Mom! That’s the one I want!”, she said. It was a super cute little two piece with a frilly cute top with matching coral bottoms. As she pointed to it, I simply told her that Dad and I aren’t okay with her wearing a teensy-tiny-bikini top, and this summer she could choose a tank-top swimsuit instead. This prompted a little pouting session, where she asked me “Buuutttt, mooooom, wwwwhhhy nooooootttt!?”.
I explained to her that some parts of our bodies we don’t show everyone. This is called being “modest” and we do it out of obedience to God. We won’t be wearing little bikinis in our family, but when she is older she can choose to wear what she wants. (If this is not your conviction, I have no judgement. This happens to be how I was raised, and I appreciate the lasting effects it has had on how I view modesty. Luckily this blog post is not about bathing suit references…. read on.)
The more I talked about the issue, the more pensive she became. Finally, after a little pause, she turned around in her seat with her arms crossed high above her chest. I was pushing the cart as she was giving me a good stare down. She cocked her head to the side and told me with a whip of her neck, “Well then, I am neeevvveeer getting baptized.” Taken aback a bit, and a little amused I gave a little chuckle and asked her why she would say something like that. We talked about things as we walked. I eventually understood that her response was a mix between her anger at me for the bikini and her fear of being baptized in water, like she has seen done at church. It was really her fear that was speaking, more so than her anger.
Zadie is still too young to make any faith decisions at this point, and I can see how being baptized is a scary idea to a little girl who can’t swim. I had no idea that those thoughts went through her little mind as she had set and watched other people baptized in our church service.
More so, this little moment reminded me that her faith and the path to it are out of my control. As her mother is it my number one duty to demonstrate Christ’s love to her through forgiveness, grace and mercy, but ultimately it will be her choice. I have come to believe that the best love we can show our children is acceptance of who they are on their journey, and the acknowledgment that they will have seasons of doubt and a wavering faith. Obviously, this is preemptive thinking with little Zadie but now as a mother with an adolescent boy, I am watching Daxx, who is eight wrestle with big questions of faith.
Once I was standing with a friend watching our kids play on the playground discussing our methods of parenting, schooling, and “churching”. I distinctly remember, she turned to me and said, “Heather, no matter what we do to help guide them, we have to remember that the Gospel is big enough and beautiful enough to have the power alone to woo a soul to Jesus”. As soon as the words spilled out of her mouth a burden lifted from my shoulders. She was right. The gospel is more powerful than all my best efforts combined. Ultimately, yes, my desire is for all three of my kids to experience the power of the Holy Spirit drawing them into the arms of Jesus. I do not want them pushed to the foot of the cross by my “good efforts”, but I want them to taste the sweet honey of the gospel and desire more of its irresistible grace and goodness.
How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
So, even though my first reaction to little Zadie’s refusal of “baptism” was a sting of fear, I realized that she and I both still have a long road to walk as I hold her hand down the path to the cross. I want to walk along side of her, pointing and explaining, modeling grace and mercy, teaching forgiveness for others and for oneself. I want her to drag my arm as she experiences the joy and freedom of Christ and the wonder of the Word of God. I never want her to feel coerced or pushed.
It’s a fine balance, to raise a child up teaching obedience to the Lord before they know Him, but my confidence rests in HIS power and might, and not my own. It’s a slow release of control, this business of parenting, especially under the umbrella of faith. Let us look to HIM, alone, for assurance