Before Katie’s birth, Elizabeth and I begin contemplating her baptism. We knew instantly that we wanted our good friend the Rev. Lindsey Wade (who I’ve known since the 3rd grade and who attended Columbia Theological Seminary with us) to baptize Katie and also be her godmother. We were thrilled when she said “yes” to our request just a couple of weeks after Katie was born.
Over the next four months, we eagerly anticipated the day Katie would be baptized and the opportunity to experience baptism as a father instead of a pastor. On the day of Katie’s baptism (Sunday morning October 19 during the 11 am worship service) I was anxious about how Katie would do during the baptism. Would Katie enjoy having water poured over her head like she does when we give her a bath? Would she be comfortable and calm being held and paraded around like she normally is whenever she’s around people, particularly the church crowds? Would she have a pooey blow out seconds before Lindsey baptized our daughter in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Although the answers seemed obvious, I was still nervous.
And maybe the anxiety was less about how Katie would do and more about how I would do, not in answering the baptism questions but in actually upholding promises to be a good father and parent to her. To help nurture her faith and relationship with God and the church as well as help her use her gifts to serve those in need.
When the time came for Lindsey to baptize Katie, my anxiety was washed away in an instant as Elizabeth and I–glowing with love for this precious child of and from God–witnessed an act of pure grace. A moment just as beautiful as the time Elizabeth and I exchanged our vows nearly 5 years ago and also seeing Katie being delivered via C-section in the wee morning hours of Sunday June 1.
After Lindsey baptized Katie, Dr. Dave Fry, the pastor of Pleasant Hill where I serve as the associate pastor, picked up Katie and carried her down the aisle of the sanctuary so the congregation could see her. As Dave walked around with Katie, he told her that (and I’m paraphrasing) “You are a reminder of what it is like to be a baptized child of God. Many folks out here have forgotten what it’s like to be baptized. You are a reminder to them. Ohhh you smell good. Because you are recently from God, you remind us what God smells like.”
And God smells good all the time. All the time, God smells good.
Katie is a daily reminder of the sweet-smelling goodness of God and God’s grace that is showered upon the entire world. She has given all of us–my brother Ben and his wife Rachel; my grandparents; my mom and her husband John (all of whom attended Katie’s baptism); Elizabeth and me; Lindsey; my in-laws Pops and Dee-Maw, and Nanna; the member of Pleasant Hill and so many more–a renewed appreciation for the wondrous life that comes from God. Katie, like all children, are a reminder of how God calls us each of us by name and lovingly claims us as God’s own in the sweet smelling waters of creation and baptism.
No matter how far we stray from God. No matter how far Katie may turn from God or feel seperated by God, she will be reminded through the baptized community of believers that God is always near. God is always here reminding us who we are and whose we are, showing us the way to God’s love and washing all of our sins and troubles away.
An image that came to mind was a scene from the Disney animated classic The Lion King in which the young lion Simba has lost his way and forgotten who he is and to whom he belongs:
As a reminder to Katie of her baptism, the church gave her a box decorated with various brightly colored handprints of the other children who attend Pleasant Hill (and who also enthusiastically promised during the service to be a good friend to Katie, to help her when she falls, to show her around the church and to learn about Jesus). Inside the box is a small pink Bible with Katie’s name engraved on the cover; a note from Elder Patrick O’Farrell who assisted in the baptism; a small paper book on Psalm 23 with a green felt cover that features a cute felt sheep; a laminated paper puzzle of The Lord’s Prayer; a candle; and a star ornament–all of which were made by the children of the church.
Other reminders of the covenant family in which Katie belongs and will remain forever in our hearts:
the family members who attended the service the church members of Pleasant Hill who will watch her grow up in the church and help shape her faith along the way; and the folks from Colesville Pres–like Martha Frances Burak who hand made Katie’s pretty baptismal bonnet–who prepared her father for the ministry of parenthood and celebrated Elizabeth’s pregnancy and Katie’s wondrous birth.
In all these things, we are reminded to forever give God praise and thanks for all God has done.