Last Thursday, I resolved to read the Bible daily and journal about it in order to improve myself. I have many flawed personality traits that can (and often do) interfere with my ability to have a peaceful, positive relationship with my family. I also have Attention-Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.), which sometimes makes it difficult for me to remain focused and on-task. (Example: this paragraph took me about 8 minutes to write. That seems a bit long, doesn’t it? I had to look up A.D.D. and I’m editing sentences as I go. I’ve always been like this; it’s why my homework was always late.)
My daughter is 12, almost 13. I was baptized when I was 14 at the Blue Ridge Baptist Temple (since moved on)
. But my path towards “salvation” was different than hers. I started attending church because a friend from my school bus invited me to come. The church had an aggressive recruitment program; every Sunday they announced attendance numbers, proudly and enthusiastically emphasizing any increases from the week before, and the ebullient youth pastor would always encourage us to ask more friends and more classmates to come next week for Rodeo Roundup, or whatever themed event they’d celebrate with games and prizes… I’m digressing again. I know I had a point when I began this paragraph.
Oh yes, my point was this: I became baptized simply because it was expected
of me. I was scooped up by some charismatic evangelicals whose only concern was getting any and every warm body they could find in the door, led to Jesus, and adding to the collection plate (which they passed both in the early kids’ service and again later in the main service). I was frightened
towards salvation by them literally putting the fear-of-God in me. Asking, “If you were to die right now, are you 100% sure you would go to Heaven?” I wasn’t running towards
Christ as much as I was running away
from Hell, with fear. I sought refuge in the baptismal font to escape hell-fire, like the family huddled in a lake to escape a marauding wildfire.
But that’s not my daughter’s experience. My wife and I haven’t threatened her with hell-fire and eternal damnation. We instead talked about the glory of God’s love shown through mercy, grace, and forgiveness. We acknowledged how we all fall short of God’s glory when we try to live life according to our own flawed, selfish standards. We talked about how Jesus of Nazareth exemplified and embodied a God-centered life that overcame sin and death. And we shared how praying for and submitting to the Holy Spirit helps us navigate the proper path when our own skewed moral compass leads us astray. She’s not running terrified from Hell; she’s running courageously towards God, with love. That leaves me immensely humble and grateful.