One New Year’s Eve, our church hosted a service to ring in the new year. It was a time set apart for worship and prayer that included the opportunity to be water baptized. What we use for baptisms was originally designed as a large horse trough. The trough was set up at the front of the sanctuary. Fortunately, we also have a portable water heater now that warms it. In the early days, there were many ice cold baptisms!
As I was leading worship on this night, I was on the platform when Pastor Kaj and the team started to do the baptisms. While these were in progress, my son, Luke, (then age seven) had come up to watch the people going under the water and to pray for them. After two or three baptisms, a call was made inviting anyone else who desired to be baptized to come forward. Luke said to me, “Mom, I want to be baptized.” I responded, “Hey buddy, let’s wait; we want all our family to be here--your grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. Let’s wait.” But Luke kept pestering me. “Come on Mom. I really want to get baptized. I want to do it tonight!” I kept saying no. Finally, I told him he needed to talk with his dad. So he went down to the front row as we continued worshiping. I could see Luke talking with Kaj who was looking up at me as if asking: what do you want me to do? Again, during another pause in worship as someone else was getting baptized, Luke approached me. He continued to insist that he was set on being water baptized. But I continued to be equally persistent in denying him permission. At last I asked him to explain to me what being baptized meant to him. From his answer, I realized he understood the commitment he would be making, but still I didn’t want him to do it on this night. The overriding thought in my heart was how important it was for our extended family to be there. Luke, grasping this, suggested, “Mom, just make a video for grandma; she can see it that way.” Obviously, he was very insistent.
It was only then I heard the Lord say to me in a still, quiet voice, “Janell, why aren’t you letting him come to me? Why are you holding him back?” Whoa! Here I was more worried about who wasn’t there to witness this event than I was about my son wanting to make a public confession to live for Jesus. The Holy Spirit reminded me of the scripture in Luke 18:15-17, “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 hinder 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 will never enter it.” In that moment, I realized I was acting like the disciples. Leaning on my own understanding, I nearly succeeded in forbidding my son to come to Jesus. Thankfully, Luke was relentless in pursuing his desire, and I was at last able to hear my Shepherd’s voice.
I’m so grateful that I accepted the correction that the Lord was speaking to me and said yes to Luke’s request. We hadn’t planned for Luke to get baptized on this New Year’s Eve, but that certainly doesn’t mean God hadn’t planned it. This lesson taught me there will be times we can’t plan everything perfectly and how important it is when plans change to be flexible and open to listen to what God is saying. I now see clearly Luke was being called by Jesus, and, though I tried to prevent him from answering, thank God, he never backed down. It was a powerful moment when he made his faith his own and boldly declared his love for Christ for all to hear and witness.
What did I learn that night? Firstly, Jesus speaks to all of us regardless of age. He spoke to Luke and he spoke to me. My problem was it took him a lot longer to get my attention. The truth that the Lord speaks to children as well as adults was brought home to me in a humbling and powerful way. This is a simple concept, but I learned firsthand that night how easily we can forget or overlook this important truth. The Lord is not a respecter of persons and that includes age. He speaks to the old, the young and everyone in between.
Secondly, I realized that I can be used to prohibit others from fully engaging in what the Lord would have for them. This sobering reality really impacted me at this service. My heart’s desire now is never to prevent anyone from coming to Jesus or answering his call whatever that may mean and however much it may seem to upset my plans or agenda. What happened that night showed me I have to be vigilant and willing not to put limits or restrictions on who can come to Jesus whatever their age, social status, financial position, etc. I want to be one who opens the door wide for anyone and everyone who desires to be close to our Lord.
I have always loved I Timothy 4:12, “12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” As a young person, I lived by this verse. I had faith God could use me even though I was young, and, while still a teenager, the Lord did use me in my local school, church and community. Today, I see this verse in a different light. Now, it warns me to beware of being the one looking down on or shutting out someone because of age and I certainly don’t want to do this to even my own children.
Can we all commit to asking and expecting God to use us to release and encourage young people in their call to live for Christ? Let’s be followers of Jesus who allow all those around us to come to him and develop their gifts to glorify him. And surely when we do, our church family will only grow in grace and strength as we value and validate all who call this place home from the oldest to the youngest.