This appeared in our newsletter on 9.25.01, just two weeks after 9.11. It comes in advance of our youngest child's baptism, but it carries the thread that ties the moments we celebrated his brothers' baptisms years earlier.
Son, I write this with hope that one day you’ll read it. This Sunday, your mom and I are going to do something with you that you won’t remember actually happening, except that we promise to help you know what is true about that day and what it means for your life, and for our lives, too.
We’re bringing you to the altar to celebrate a covenant, a promise. We’re going to bring you to the waters of life. We’re celebrating your baptism. What we’re doing is letting everyone within the sound of our voices know what we already know, that you, son, are God’s special child, and God’s gift to us. Mom and I, your brothers too, are so blessed to have your life wrapped up into ours. We love you so much, and we know that we’ve been given the joy and responsibility of raising you in the awareness that you are never apart from God’s loving presence and God’s grace.
All your family is going to be there in great number to celebrate this day. Your Granddaddy’s going to hold you, place water on you, and say some special words that mark you as one of God’s children. Mom and I are going to declare again that we are also God’s children. It will be a holy moment. It will be sacred. In that moment, you will be given a name – Jack Ryan Jeffords, “one of Christ’s own.”
Mom and I, even as we celebrate, know the importance of doing this. We’ve been at the altar before. We’ve been there to be baptized ourselves. We’ve been there to be married. We’ve been there to give thanks to God for the lives of family and friends who’ve died. We go there regularly to feast upon the grace of God through Jesus in Holy Communion. We go to the altar to pray. This is the holy place for us to gather for this joyous occasion.
Now Jack, your church family’s going to be there, too. Their responsibility to you is, in many ways, just as important as ours. Your church family is going to make promises about their intent to help raise you in the faith. Gathered all around will be your sisters and brothers in Christ. Within that beautiful sanctuary is gathered one family, to celebrate one Lord, through this one baptism.
As you grow up and the pressures of life start to become real to you, you’re going to have to work really hard sometimes to remember what is true about your life and faith. That’s the struggle we all face. There are times when it’s rather clear about who we are and the direction of lives guided by faith with God in the midst. But there are days when it’s not so clear.
Even as we celebrate this day I struggle with my faith and my feelings as I see what evil people can do to each other in our world. What makes it even more confusing is that sometimes people use the same God that we come before to justify their purposes. My struggle has nothing to do with whether or not God has changed. God hasn’t. It has more to do with whether or not I’m making myself completely available to God’s presence. When I’m not, it gets tough. Those are the moments when I need to be reminded of my baptism. You’ll need a reminder, too.
Sunday, Granddaddy’s going to give us a candle, and he’s going to tell us to light it every September 30, to be a living reminder that something powerful and eternal took place in your life. One day, this promise made for you by us will be yours to accept and embrace. While mom and I make plenty of decisions for you during your young life, this one’s going to be all yours. One day, you’ll be called to stake your claim in the name of the One in whose name you were baptized at the tender age of 7 weeks. And as you ponder, your family, your church family, and even our Lord cheer you on.
God bless you, my beloved son.