A parent dreams from day one of their child's life how they would like that child to turn out. Countless books and resources flood the market to help us steer these kids through everything from sleep to studies to good decision making. We do everything in our power to be a positive influence on how our children develop, but at some point, their lives and their decisions must become their own.
This can be especially challenging in the area of faith. I know what I passionately believe, and I want more than anything to be with all three of my children in heaven some day. Just like God, it is my desire that none of these children be lost. To that end, I have taught and raised them in our Christian faith not only through church programming, but in homeschooling and in practical teachable moments.
Much to my delight, my two older children came to a decision to invite Christ into their lives at a young age. They had favorite Bible verses and announced them proudly at their baptisms. Each of them had come to me and asked me how they could have Jesus live inside their hearts. After being certain that each of them had grasped exactly what that meant, at their request, I had guided them in "the believer's prayer". Shortly after that point came their baptisms. I had full confidence in their decisions and have continued to guide them along the way in the years that have followed.
My youngest daughter, however, has not been such an open-and-shut case. She came to me like the others did, about a year or so ago, asking the same question, wanting to have Jesus live inside of her. I guided her to the point of "the believer's prayer". But despite that prayer, I seriously doubted her conversion.
You see, in case you didn't already know it, our youngest child has a serious case of ADHD that has been unsuccessfully treated due to her severe drug allergies. She was also recently diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), being both sensory avoidant and sensory seeking in every area but one of those evaluated. When you combine a child who is impulsive to the point of her exuberance overriding her ability to reason with one who reacts in unusual ways in order to compensate for senses that don't work the way everyone else's do, you have quite a mess. What I see on a daily basis is a little girl who is constantly touching others, crying, ever-moving and who delays obedience, if she complies at all.
So when she began hounding me over being baptized, I frankly put her off. I told her things like, Oh, yeah, we'll have to look into that. Then when she began hearing at various times of year that our church would be offering upcoming baptisms (because she's so darn intelligent), I began apologizing, saying that I had just forgotten to register her. Then when she started stomping her feet expressing her feelings of injustice as to why she couldn't get baptized when every other family member had, I got up the courage to tell her the truth. I explained that before I could move forward with such a faith commitment, I needed to see some "fruit" in her life (ie love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control). In other words, I confessed that I hadn't contacted the church because I needed evidence that a conversion really had taken place. She certainly didn't like my answer, and she never acquiesced in requesting to be baptized every time she knew they were being done at our church.
One day I was talking to my friend, Dr. Steve Grcevich on the phone about another issue. Since I know he has expertise in the area of ADHD and ministry, I asked him what he had thought about our Sophie continuing to request baptism. He asked me why I had not allowed her to be baptized up to this point. And when I explained my reasoning to him, his answer to me cleared every cloud away and opened the path for this eight-and-a-half year old girl to realize her wish. He opined, "Well, did you start producing fruit the minute you invited Jesus into your life? If you think she understands what she's doing, then I think you should let her do it!" It made so much sense, I felt embarrassed. Here most Christian parents would love to have their child make a commitment of faith, and yet I'm denying my daughter the opportunity.
As I pondered this whole situation further, it broke my heart. Coming to understand some aspects of both her ADHD and her SPD, I realize there are some behaviors that she just cannot control without much work and retraining. Can you imagine willing to follow Christ and yet, being unable to keep yourself from some socially unacceptable actions, feeling like the "naughtiest" sinner in the world? What sadness I felt when the neuropsychologist announced that her testing revealed that she thinks, "I'm a bad kid," "Nobody likes me," and "I don't like myself." It became apparent to me that she needed that positive experience of baptism and the growing confidence of knowing that no matter how much her disabilities mess with the rest of her life, she is secure in her Savior. He made her. He loves her. She is forgiven through Him. And He can recycle her difficulties for amazing good.
Two weeks ago, they made that announcement again that they would be offering baptisms on the second Sunday in January. This time when my eager little girl asked if she could be baptized, I had the joy of telling her "yes". Her happiness was palpable. She began planning who she wanted to be there and how we would celebrate.
To their great credit, Crosspoint Community Church, who has supported our ministry since day one, was very open to allowing a little girl with such challenges be baptized. The Pastor of Spiritual Development, Dan Morse, whom I've known for years, spoke with me by phone before the event to make sure Sophie was ready for this big step. He listened intently and with good discernment as I explained the whole journey to him. I was overjoyed when he not only agreed to move forward with her baptism, but also suggested that my husband might join her in the baptismal pool and help baptize his daughter. Whether he knew it or not, that was a terrific insight!
This definitely wasn't the "typical" baptism that I went through with my other two. Despite her high level of intelligence, she didn't have a favorite Bible verse that she wished to share, but rather wanted to announce, "I want to be baptized because I love God and I want the whole world to know!" Fancy, traditional clothes were out of the question with her SPD. And she was so excited that sitting through the service was virtually impossible as her body needed to move or have strong physical input in order to feel comfortable. Nevertheless, she has driven her stake in the ground, telling the world where she stands. And we couldn't be more overflowing with joy that it's on the side of Jesus!