Why do we dedicate our children?

This coming Sunday, Laura and I will stand before our congregation and have Micah “dedicated to the Lord.”  In every church that I have attended (of which I consider Grace to be the fourth), we have this phenomenon of having two ragged parents up on the platform, handing over their screaming baby to the pastor, whom he subsequently prays over and quickly hands back before something comes spewing out of its mouth.

Although it may be the cynic in me, I tend to believe that this is one of those many rituals that is done out of habit in the Church, with any underlying or historical meaning lost in the trendy clothes, the photo ops, and the laughably cute behavior of the baby.  So why do we dedicate our children?

I’m sure part of it stems from a lack of other rituals that other off-shoots of the Judeo-Christian brand have.  We aren’t circumcising our sons on the eighth day as the Jewish people do (and why should we?).  As good and proper credo-baptists (i.e., those that hold to believer’s baptism), we do not perform any sprinkling or pouring on our infants, welcoming them into God’s covenantal family as most other churches stemming from the Reformation do.  Nor do we catechize and administer first Communion as the Romans do.

So what is a Bible-believing, born from above, credo-baptist to do?  Or, probably better, why have Laura and I decided to “dedicate our children?”  The answer is not to parade them up front and watch the congregation ooh and aah.  For us, the answer is in the way Jace, the senior pastor at Berean Bible Church (church 3 of 4), always described it.  It’s less about dedicating the child, and more about dedicating the parents.

To be sure, the Bible talks about Hannah dedicating Samuel to God after his birth.  Joseph and Mary presented Jesus to God.  But in as much as we are presenting Micah to the Lord, it is ultimately our son’s choice later in life whether to follow in that path.  I tend to think that both Samuel and Jesus were exceptional cases.  What I’m interested in is what I have a stake in:

Are Laura and I committed to raising our sons in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?  (whoa, KJV tradition poking through…)  Are we recognizing that, while we are the primary spiritual caretakers of these boys, we still need help in the process?  Are we asking for accountability and encouragement along the way from those that we do life with?

The answer to all of these is yes.  We need the Sunday School teachers, and the nursery workers, and the youth leaders, and every one else that volunteers their time in order to contribute to the spiritual well-being of our boys!  We rely upon our family members.  We need our friends.  We humbly request that you build us up when we are at our wit’s end, and that you point out to us when we seem to be lacking in any given area.

This is why, at least on our part, why we are doing what we’re doing on Sunday.  Yes, we’ll dress spiffy, take a few pictures, go out to eat afterwards, and hopefully not have any meltdowns in the process.  But in the end — make no mistake — this is about our promise to God and our boys, and asking our fellow believers to help us in the process.  We are dedicating ourselves to the task.

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on little white stones…

Yesterday did not go as planned.

Most of you know my relationship with my Jeep has been one of ups and downs.  I knew it was on the way out.  Coupling that with the expansion of my family in five months, as well as my monstrous commute each day, I decided it was time to trade in the Jeep for something a little more family- and fuel-friendly.  Yesterday was that day.  I picked up a friend at 9:30 and we began our journey towards Silver Spring; however, my Jeep wasn’t going without one final act of defiance.  As we were approaching Bowie on Route 50, my engine was getting louder and louder until it sounded like a few pieces flew off and it simply shut off.  Coasting to the shoulder, we called a tow truck.  An hour and a half later, we were in the tow truck on our way to Lanham, the closest dealership that we were around.

A few test drives, quotes, and hours later, I settled on a 2009 Corolla.  Because my Jeep was not in running condition, suffice it to say the trade-in value was greatly diminished – so much so that I decided not to trade it in.  As I was cleaning out my Jeep and placing everything in my new car, I picked up this quarter-sized white stone that has been sitting in my Jeep since the summer.  Given the events of the day, it made me smile.  Why?

Last summer, as my senior and youth pastors were preparing a series on Judges, the latter did an introductory message from Joshua 24.  The Israelites finally made it into the land that God has promised to them, and many of them could look back on the past 40 years wandering in the wilderness, and the eldest among them could remember God bringing them out from the land of Egypt.  One of Joshua’s final recorded acts was to take a large stone and place it under an oak tree by the Lord’s sanctuary to remind Israel, among other things, the marvelous things that God had brought them through (vv. 26-27).  The Israelites could pass the stone and remember God’s provisions, as well as their promise that they would serve God first.

As a final closing illustration, my youth pastor gave everyone in the congregation a little white stone (coming up with 400+ large rocks proved difficult, I suppose).  Ever since that day, it has [purposefully] sat in my Jeep to remind me of all that God has brought me through and His gracious faithfulness to me.  Removing it from the Jeep (which was far more trouble than it was worth) and placing it into my Corolla (which will hopefully treat me better), my conviction that everything happens for a specific reason – i.e., my true good (Phil 4:19) – was renewed.  In its new home, that stone now holds even more memories of God’s goodness towards me:

  • the faithfulness of a close friend who gave up a day to help me out and keep my stress levels down
  • the faithfulness of God to provide the means to purchase a new car
  • the blessing of another close friend and a few other gentlemen from WBC who helped me load my Jeep onto a tow dolly to get it off the dealership lot

I look forward to the other things that the little stone will witness, such as road trips to Lynchburg, Ohio, Raystown, and Wildwood Crest, or taking my kids to see their grandparents, uncles, and aunts in Pennsylvania.  Even now, when I look in my rear view mirror, I can “see” my baby in their car seat in the back.  If I’m really daydreaming, I’ll see a baby AND a toddler back there.  (Of course, they have dark hair like their mother, and they sing with a tone only rivaled by Martina McBride and David Phelps).  When the day comes when two kids become three, or four (or…), and we enter into minivan territory, that little stone is coming with me.  And even when my sinful little offspring are screaming and fighting, I’ll look at that little white stone and smile (if only on the inside), recalling all the blessings God has given me, and His ongoing faithfulness in my life.  All I know is I certainly don’t deserve it.  And sometimes, the greatest blessings are the ones that we don’t expect, or could ever plan.