Monday, December 22, 2014

A Child's Witness

Merry Christmas! Okay, it's not quite Christmas, but we are deep in the Christmas season.

This year was a big one in my household, with two members both giving their lives to the Lord and doing so at very young ages. As Pentecostals we don't usually baptize children, and never infants. We believe that the person being baptized should understand what they are doing and make the choice themselves. Of course, there is a difference between understanding something and appreciating it. My youngest was seven when she was baptized and even when she was younger she could explain the importance of baptism. She understood it. Still, she had no desire to be baptized. To her it was something adults did and she was just a kid. That changed when my granddaughter was baptized.

For clarity's sake I should explain that I started a family at a very young age. I married at nineteen and became a father eighteen months later. That child followed my example, marrying just out of high school and having her little girl when she was not much older than I was. I had a second daughter when I was twenty four and a third in my forties. The two kids I am writing about are my granddaughter Talia and my youngest Makayla. In spite of being her aunt, Makayla is younger than Talia.

Talia had gone to our church's summer camp and there she was filled with the Holy Spirit, with the outward sign of speaking in tongues. This has been happening in the Church since the day of Pentecost Acts, chapter two, and is the defining experience of the Pentecostal movement. Once she got home, she spoke with our Pastor and it was agreed she was ready to be baptised. It was a big event. Even her dad, who rarely attends church, came out and gave her a high five as she came up out of the baptismal waters.

This was a game changer for Makayla. Because of how close in age they were, the two are more like sisters than aunt and niece, but there was no rivalry. Makayla was very happy for Talia and began to consider what it meant for herself. Seeing another child being baptized caused her to realize that it wasn't just for grown ups. Within a month of Talia's baptism, Makayla received the gift of the Holy Ghost at an altar call at our church and was baptized only a few days later.

At her baptism little children lined that baptismal tank and one, a visitor whose family doesn't attend a church, was so impressed that she decided she too wants to be baptized. I have no idea whether she has been or ever will, but her comment impressed on my something that I'd seen unfold during that summer: the importance of a child's witness. As church-goers we often acknowledge that children have a spiritual side, just like adults. Jesus held children up as an example to adults! But in practice we limit that acknowledgement to Sunday School attendance and, perhaps, nightly prayers. Such an attitude short changes them. The spritual life of children can run just as deep as any adult's and we need to be mindful of where they really are, spiritually, and not confuse that with our expectations of where they should be.

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