When my niece Conley (my oldest niece or nephew out of 6) was around two years old, I used to go with her and her parents to the pool. It was just as she was beginning to swim. Her dad would place her on the edge of the pool and encourage her to jump. As the first born, you can imagine she wasn’t keen on the idea. She shuffled her feet every so slightly and ever so slowly to the very edge. Once again, her dad called out to her, “Go ahead and jump. I will catch you. Trust me.” She dragged her feet a little bit closer to the edge, so much so that her toes hung over and clutched the rim. She didn’t have to tell anyone she was afraid — her toes told the whole story.
While Conley is a first born, she has two older cousins who are fearless. Coming from the far corner of the pool, her cousins egged her on impatiently, “Jump Conley, jump!” With her dad’s hands up in the air, waiting for his only daughter to make the plunge, Conley released the death grip and splashed into the water, arms flailing as if she was in a Harlem Shake video. Interestingly enough, her dad didn’t catch her. He let her sink just enough to create in her a helpless panic, a striving to escape the tortures of the zero gravity so strangely experienced in the depths of a vast unknown. Unbeknownst to my initial observation, his hands actually surrounded his daughter — they sat waiting to reach down to his sinking girl in order to pull her out of the all encompassing fear. As her father, he knew best. He knew what she lacked in that particular situation — trust. Trust in the elements and trust in her father. When she emerged from the water, gasping for air and blinking furiously to remove the beads of water from her stained red eyes, she cried out, “Again Daddy, Again!”
And off she quickly waddled, to the same edge as before. But instead of latching on to the edge of the pool, she latched on to the trust she learned from her father. She is free — free to love the water (and boy does she!).
On Easter Sunday, Conley, as a beautiful 6 year old, was baptized. As I made my way out to Aledo, TX for the ceremony, the story from above resonated in my memory. Yeah, I could analyze the whole water motif, but that is obvious. I want to go a different direction with it all — a more personal direction.
I am typically cynical to the idea of a child being “saved” — to a child with the intellectual wherewithal to grasp the heights and depths of justification, grace, the gospel, and the kingdom on earth and in heaven. If I am completely honest, I’m not sure if middle school students are capable of the necessary spiritual and intellectual aptitude to understand these complex theological axioms. I mean, I am 25 and I wrestle with the particulars of Truth, so how can a six year old understand it!
God created me a melancholy. While the term connotes something negative, I do not mean it as such. Its a particular state of being that one is naturally disposed to. Some are naturally joyful — in Christ or out of Christ — for it is the state of being God gave them. As a melancholy, he granted me certain gifts and certain weaknesses. One of grave weaknesses is a tendency to sadness. When I encounter these states, oftentimes the question I pose God is, “Why me? Haven’t I suffered enough? Haven’t I been sad long enough?”
On my quiet and peaceful ride to the baptism of my niece, I was struck, not with a cynical attitude to the actions about to take place, but a humbled spirit. Flashed in my mind was the often quoted verses from Luke 19:
15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinde
r them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(R)”> will never enter it.”
Oftentimes we attribute Jesus’s words to mean that we should never examine the intricacies of our faith. Instead, we should live a life of dull intellect, only loving God with our heart, soul, and strength. The mind be damned! But, I’m not sure that was Jesus’s intention…
Our understanding of this passage hinges on our definition of faith. If we believe faith is merely this ethereal, cloudy connection of heart to soul to the divine, then the passage will be viewed through the lens of the previous interpretation. But, if instead, we see faith as trusting in an ever present God, a God who cares not only about our eternal future, but our current state, one bound to the kingdom on earth, then a spiritual freedom is gained through the blood of Christ.
My struggle in trusting God usually doesn’t revolve around money or vocation. It revolves around my personal holiness and brokenness — does his grace really extend to me? can he really make me whole in the midst of my melancholy-ness? Usually, my heart screams emphatically, “No!” But as I saw my beautiful niece, in front of the whole church, explain her trust in the father, and be buried with Christ and raised to walk in newness of life, I realized that I was also on the edge of the pool, toes clinched and synched, only needing to trust as a child — trust that my father’s hands wait for me as I plunge into the pool. While I sink, he is there to bring me out of the depths, but it occurs in his timing, and not my own.
My Father knows whats best for me. I only need to trust.