Tonight I watched my little baby grow up a little more. Tonight I watched her take another step away from being "mommy's little girl" and toward being Teenybop, a woman who belongs to herself and to her God. For over a year now, she has been talking about being baptized ... at first, she just wanted to know the process. She wanted to know if it was scary, she wanted to know who would perform the ritual, she wanted to know what her part would be if she should ever choose to participate. She wanted to know what it meant, what the symbolism was, and why we do it. And again, she wanted to know if I was very sure it wasn't scary.
She put it off for a long time, wanted to be baptized so bad but was too afraid of the serious nature of the process to actually go through with it. Recently our church lost the couple that was teaching the Children's Church because the husband is in the Navy and his family was moved, but the new couple who came in are awesome and the wife has such a strong heart for ministering to the children. She and I haven't had a lot of chances to really grow close in the short time that she has been there, but Pastor B has made quiet an impression on my Teenybop and I will miss her when my family leaves Knoxville for parts unknown in the Army. Tonight she endeared herself to me forever ... tonight she baptized my daughter.
We got to the church a little early and Teenybop was so excited she could hardly stand still, though I'm not sure whether it was the baptism or the promise of a pizza dinner the church was having afterward that had her jittering all over the floor. Within half an hour it was nearing time for the service to start, so we headed for the bathroom to trade Teenybop's jeans and long sleeves for shorts and short sleeves ... she forgot to grab an extra pair of panties (as did I) so I'm thinking my daughter must have been the only person there tonight who was baptized without them ... I suppose it's a good thing God doesn't care what you're wearing. But I digress ...
As we were waiting for the service to get going and for those being baptized to be dismissed to line up backstage, Teenybop's excitement was almost visible to me! Finally it was time and we headed out the door into the hallway ... When the "guy in charge" told us that they'd be starting with the smallest, Teenybop looked up at me with blue eyes full of nerves and excitement, but proud of herself too for being brave enough to do such a big thing. She knew she was the smallest one and hadn't planned on being first ... I think she had been hoping to watch someone else go first, just for reassurance. But she took her place in line and I stood there beside her with her towel in one hand and her sister in the other. At the last second Private Ryan came back (he'd been working a camera until that point ... our church is televised locally) to hold Piglet and keep Teenybop company so that I was free to go take some photos with our camera, and I headed into the sanctuary to scout a photographers viewpoint. Sadly there weren't any really great places that were close enough, so I will just have to settle for the few photos I got and be thankful for the DVD Private Ryan was able to procure for me since he is on the media team at the church.
It was really a beautiful service ... it seemed like half our youth group was up there! They went first, baptized by their pastor who is amazing and his lovely pregnant wife took stage left and manned a camera, taking photos for all the mothers of the teenagers giving their lives to God. Some of those kids are really amazing with a heart for God and a call to minister already at such young ages! When they were finished the church pastor came up and I had thought that he would be doing the other baptisms ... that he would be doing Teenybop's baptism. He spoke for a few minutes, and then introduced Pastor B, the new Children's Church pastor. For just a second I was slightly disappointed ... He has been like a spiritual father to me and I have taken many questions and concerns to him and to his wife also. I really love him and his family dearly, and it would have meant a great deal to me to see my daughter in his hands as he would have prayed over her and given her to the Lord in a way that would have been easy for her.
But when Pastor B came up to speak, she barely got three words out before she was crying, and her joy at being asked participate had me crying with her. She turned slightly and we made eye contact and that was it for emotional me ... Though we haven't exactly sat down to coffee together, in that second I could see how much she loves the children of our church, how much she loves my child specifically, and how much it meant to her to have had such a leading part in bringing my daughter's heart to Christ. In that second my disappointment fell away and I knew that my daughter was in good hands, and I was glad to have seen the emotion in Pastor B's eyes. I will also make more of a point in the future to reach out to her, and I plan to write her a personal thank you for her participation in such a big event in our family.
All that, and it was only the beginning. Pastor B finished her talk, which was short due to her struggling to contain her emotions ... Then it was time to start. I moved to the far side of stage to catch Teenybop as she came onstage, and she stood there like a big girl, her little skinny arm held up in the air, her tiny little hand swallowed up by the hand of our music/media pastor. This is one of the most admirable men I have ever met, and I would trust my daughter's life in his hands, but standing there and watching her look up at his for reassurance, knowing that he was thinking of the big huge decision this tiny little girl had made, and that he would be proud of her, I started to cry a little. I saw him look down at her and then look away ... knowing that he is an emotional man when it comes to family and faith, I was very touched that he would be so moved for my daughter's sake.
He walked her to the pool, guided her up the stairs and into the water, into the hands of her Pastor B. She was so relaxed there ... only for a second was she afraid, but as she looked up at her pastor she relaxed and was ready to go. She was introduced to the church, she was asked if she loved the Lord with all her heart, and she quietly answered that she does. Then she was dunked, she was baptized, and it was over.
I stood proud with tears streaming down my face as I walked to the door so I could meet her in the hall; I tried to regain control as I took my Piglet and followed Teenybop to the bathroom. She changed her clothes and we moves on with the night, but what is really important about this day is that my daughter made a very big-girl choice, she made the choice to give her life to God, to struggle like all Christians do to act in the right way, to remember that we are helpless without God on our side, and that it is our responsibility to spread the word of God to people around the world who don't know Him.
As her mother, I feel reassured that I have not failed my daughter in the most important way, that if the end of the world should be right this second and she might be deemed old enough to be responsible for her soul ... I will know that between me and our phenomenal church, my daughter is safe. She has made the right choice and has given her life to God. She has decided to play for a team we know will win, and when the time comes that He calls my name, I can now rest assured that He will call hers too.
Then again ... a Christian's life is a stuggle. It is fighting against temptation every day, it is begging God not just to forgive our sins, but to help us accept that we are forgiven and to help us be able to let it go. To help us to be strong and able to turn toward the right path. And I am also assured that the fight for my daughter's soul is not over. She will be attacked in her life, and it is still my job to help her find her way.