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AVERYday: What Really Matters - Part 11

I never fully realized how important knowing - really knowing - whether or not the people I loved accepted Christ was, until Avery passed. See, Avery was filled up, overflowing, oozing out love for Christ! She did not get that from me. Sure, I believed in God. And, yes, I brought her to Church and Sunday School like a good parent (mostly for the social coffee hour after). But I have always been what you would probably call a Holiday and a Half Christian.

You know Holiday Christians: they show up at Christmas, Easter, a few weddings and all the funerals.

Well, Holiday and a Half Christians show up at all the holidays, weddings and funerals, but they also go to church for at least half the year. They might sign up for a Bible Study (but only do half the lessons). They sign their Christmas cards with "blessings" and aren't afraid to tell people they'll pray for them. And they can quote a thing or two from the Bible: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" [Philippians 4:13] and the Lord's Prayer (which is also called the Our Father in Catholic lingo, which is kind of smart because that's the first words of the prayer so the title doubles as a prompt).

Anyway, I've always been a Holiday and a Half Christian. I still get confused whether we have debts or trespasses. While I've gone to the same church for the entire 39 years of my life, I have never taken communion because I don't know if it's against the law. (The law of the church. Are they laws? Rules? Policies? I don't know.) Since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease I can get by with saying gluten allergy, but really, I've never made Profession of Faith, which is what I think has to happen before you're allowed to take communion. In the Catholic Church you turn seven and wear a wedding dress. If you're Lutheran you wait until 8th grade Confirmation. In our church there is no set age. It's when you feel it... when you know. 

Another thing that might surprise you is that none of my children are baptized. Nope, not even Avery, my God Girl.

Want to know why? Because I didn't really know about it. I mean, I did. I knew it existed. But I saw it as this thing parents did to get more presents for their kids. All the baptisms I was ever invited to were by people I was, quite frankly, shocked that they even knew what a church was. They bought fancy clothes, took pictures, and then we went and ate an expensive catered meal and handed over obligatory stuffed lambs and cash. From my point of view I had already handed over a Baby Shower Gift, then a The Baby Was Born Gift, and I'll be required to contribute to the Baby Is One Year Old Gift... and now they were trying to get another gift?

Simply put, I didn't fully understand what baptism meant or why it was important other than to symbolically wash away sins (which is strange to me because I don't view most babies as being covered in sin. I do, however, have a list of really mean adults that could use a good cleansing.)

But - and this might anger a lot of religious zealots - I don't think it really mattered.

See, Avery LOVED HER GOD!! Loved God, understood God, lived God and respected God. She spoke God's Word, committed her life to Him, and wanted nothing less than for everyone on the planet to know who God was. She would tell me that if people just knew God they would know how much He loved them and they would never feel alone or afraid. She wanted everyone to be kind and respectful with each other because that's just how it's supposed to be. God said so. And she wanted everyone to learn about God in school (specifically, her school). 

She did all this never realizing she hadn't been baptized. Do I think God reached His hand out to her on the night of October 24, 2012, and then quickly snatched it back saying, "sorry, can't take you; you weren't baptised." No. Not at all. 

I think God loved that little girl with all His heart. And I believe that God specifically and perfectly picked her soul to be loaned to my mothering arms, into our family and into our community, to remind us what it's like to live for God. See, God knew every hair on that little girl's head. He knew her fears and her strengths. He knew how she would spend her days and what her trials would be. And he knew that she would be placed in a family that wouldn't have thought to have her baptized. He knew that she would embrace His love and loudly proclaim His blessings to the world. He knew that His earthly plan for her would only take eleven years, and He knew the when and how and WHY she would be brought Home to Heaven on October 24, 2012.  

Not being baptized, that was my decision (or lack thereof, since I really only remembered she wasn't baptised just today) - not Avery's. And God knows my heart, too, and actually understands better than I the things I do. 

I know that Avery's heart was right with the Lord. Without a doubt, without question. I keep thinking how much comfort that has brought me... immeasurable amounts. So many people have looked at me and have asked, "how can you be so strong?" I guess it's because I know without a question where she is. I know she is safe and in the best hands possible. Much like when parents are way more relaxed on vacation knowing kids at Grandma's house rather than with the lady that was recommended by the butcher at the local grocery.

I have thought about what would have happened if Jadrian hadn't survived the accident. (Morbid, I know, but trust me when I say I've never had much control over my thoughts, and right now it's a free for all.) I honestly don't think I'd be handling it as well. Jadrian is a Holiday Christian. I'd be on my hands and knees begging God to please, please just show me she was with Him. 

That got me thinking about my siblings. I know how my sister feels about God. Her heart is right. But my brothers? Do they believe? I'm pretty sure the one does. But the other? And to what extent? My Mom is faithful.... and my Dad believes in God, but struggles with man-run religion. 

And Matt? Matt never thought about God much. He grew up Catholic but couldn't tell me a thing he learned. He hadn't been to church since high school. With Avery in our home, religion has come up a lot in our relationship. I wanted someone who supported our family's religion. He figured not getting in our way while we were getting ready for church was being supportive enough. When Avery would get upset that Matt wasn't participating, he would explain that he was "covered" because he had baptised and confirmed. But was he really? 

And then, what about me? Is my heart considered right with the Lord? 

Here's what I do know: if I'm asking, then I have some work to do.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for 
and certain of what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1


Heather Bush said…
I had to post a comment here. You know my story so I don't have to rehash it all for you, but, I was not raised in a church, in fact, I had never stepped foot in one until I was 29 years old.

From what I have read, in the Bible, children were not baptized. It's my understanding that they were not baptized because they were not yet old enough to KNOW sin and to understand eternal life.

Baptism is an outward expression of an internal change. It is a declaration to the rest of the world that you have accepted God and Jesus as your Lord and Savior and is only to be done AFTER the change has been made in you. Avery did not need to make that declaration, she was baptized in the SPIRIT (which is a much better than any water baptism) and it SHOWED in everything she did, everything she said, and everything she IS.

There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus is on the right side of God praying for all of us. On Jesus's right side is Avery, keeping track and making sure no one is forgotten.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches a doctrine known as "Baptism of Desire" which means if someone wasn't baptized by water, it does not mean they didn't go directly to heaven. If "their heart was right with God," Baptism of Desire means they were baptized in spirit (as Heather posted above). I think we can all be confident that Avery's heart was right with God.
Right on Bridget! I know I don't need to say this because from reading your post, you are already at peace with this, but I do not believe that "rituals" make you any closer to God. (We did "welcoming ceremonies" in the woods for all of our kids and I'm sure some people think I'm a total heathen.) As you (and Avery) have shown, it is the truth that is in your heart that matters. I don't think you need to show up anywhere but to your own heart to have faith in God. I think churches provide just one place where people can get away from the distractions of daily life and find their truth through the words spoken by spiritual mentors (pastors, priests, monks, nuns, rabbis, what have you) - God's words.

So, don't be so hard on yourself & your loved ones, but DO find time and encourage them to find time to search your souls, find your truth, listen to the message that God will send you when you are ready to receive it whether it's in church or someplace else. Perhaps church isn't the right place for them right now and perhaps it never will be, but that doesn't mean that they can't know God. ... in my opinion.

I know a lot of people won't agree with me on this. I don't think it matters as much how often you "show up" to church, as it matters to "show up" to your church whenever you feel like you are losing your connection to God.
Tina, said…
My son, The Boy, did a sermon for his youth competition one year about his baptizm. His story was true and (I tear up just thinking about his sermon now, even though part of it was funny) anyway...He talked about the church camp he attended in the 6th grade and how he was baptized in the river. He tells how he had done it mainly to just be one of the crowd. Then he tells about when he was really baptized in our church by our Youth Pastor and the difference in it. Doing it for the right reasons this time.

During the writing of the sermon, I helped him with it. We found many pastors teaching that baptism is a symbolic presentation, kind of like what you were talking about. By being dunked you are symbolizing your death as a sinner and by coming out of the water you are symbolizing your rebirth as a christian. Until that sermon was written by my own teen age son, I had never really understood the symbolic gesture of it all. I believe it is a symbolic gesture to the world and as important as doing that to show the world is...God would prefer us to live our lives as Avery lived her life. Baptized or not. Wanting to spread His word and loving Him with everything we have, Avery is teaching us all alot. Thank you so much for sharing these precious feelings, thoughts and for Sharing Avery with us.

Last summer my son was rebaptized at our churches summer camp by his youth pastor, again. He had made some bad choices in the last couple of years and was once again reborn. My very own son has taught me about falling from God's grace and then recommiting to Him.
hl said…
What an enormous loss you have suffered, yet I pray that the Holy Spirit will use your daughter's incredible witness to help you continue searching the Scriptures and reaching out to leaders in your congregation to help you begin to understand these things about which you still have questions. Thank you for your openness and sharing of this path through the difficulties of the day.
Ellen said…
I'm more like you Bridget with regards to faith. I grew up going to church every Sunday till I hit high school. We moved and never seem to go to church, I didn't mind but I could never understand why my parents who had been so involved with our old church would just stop going.

So life moves on and I marry a man who went to church just as I did but he became agnostic. He has always felt children should have choice of a religion and not just what one a parent picks. He also felt that they should want this and not be forced as he had been. Hhhmmm. Having kids I wanted them to have some religious upbringing but I was lazy. I didn't push it or make an effort. To date none of my now grown kids has attended church as children but my one daughter seems to be developing a religious relationship. My oldest embraces with respect most religions but does not worship. My middle daughter appears agnostic like her father. How do I feel about this?

I feel that we all will seek what we need and gravitate towards it. Some of us don't appear to need faith in Jesus but are highly spiritual.

I was baptised as a baby. I have always tried to be an honest (thought as a teen I had issues with that), to be caring, loving, supportive towards those less fortunate than I, to not place judgements upon others that I do not now (though that can be not trying to judge a book by it's have to get to know a person to know there persona). I do not judge other religions which has bothered me in the past how many religions think they are the only true religion and means to the everlasting life in heaven. I do not believe God would condemn one for what church or faith they believe in unless it is some vile faith of Satan worship.

Will I go to heaven? Do I know what heaven is? I want to believe that I will see those I have loved that have passed away. I want to believe that I will not pass into Hell just because I do not attend Sunday services.

I do believe that your Avery was here for a purpose for you and your family's life...a turning point in some great mystery of life. I am in awe of your peace and comfort. Faith can and will do that.

I am not a better person because of my baptizing, I am simply a woman that has lived a full life and draws comfort and love from my peace of mind of knowing this.
Why said…
George W. Bush wrote about a conversation he had with Rev. Billy Graham. GW expressed concern because he always questioned his faith. He ran to books for reason, read and searched constantly. The fact that he lacked blind faith concerned him. The Rev. assured GW that folks who fail to routinely question their faith simply do not take it seriously enough. Performing the ceremonies and rituals is a great testament to commitment, but remember, it is those of us that go home heavy with "why's" and further concentration on the "how's" that really make a point of challenging our faith. It is simply too easy to say "I ate a wafer, I'm in!". I had my children baptized and quite frankly recall the experience as highly unremarkable. What has me running to deepen my faith is memories like my 7 year old gave me the other day when he said "mom, I did like Jesus would have and sat by the kid nobody likes." THAT is a Christian... and one I can't take credit for. That's all God, reminding ME to keep digging... keep taking my faith seriously.

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