A couple of weeks ago I had the wonderful privilege of speaking at a baptism for my nephew. He is awesome and I love him. I also love his parents. I only had a few minutes to speak there, and I tried to convey the thoughts that I had into those few precious moments because nobody except me wanted to hear a 25-minute talk on baptism. So, in an effort to more fully process the thoughts I had leading up to that night, I have written them down here. I thought about sending this letter to my brother (and obviously his son) as an email or personal letter, but decided on posting it here in the hopes that it will be of some assistance to someone somewhere – not to mention the hope that someday Tyler will read it and remember that special day. What follows then, is the non-readers digest version of a baptism story addressed as a letter to an 8 year old boy (on his actual 8th birthday):
Today something awesome gets to take place. You get to have a birthday. Not the normal kind of birthday (the mommy birth) – because you’ve already had a bunch of those. You get to have a heavenly birthday too. And we all know that the best part of having a birthday is getting presents.
Now, tonight, your amazing dad gets to walk down into the water and look up at you. In that instant, as he looks up into your smiling face, all 8 of the incredibly long and incredibly short years of your life will flash before his eyes as he sees you standing there. His heart will burn. He will hold his hand out to gently invite you into the water with him. As you slowly step down into the water, he will wonder if he’s taught you well enough. He will wonder if he explained exactly what to expect. He no doubt has practiced the technique with you in the pool or at home in preparation for this day. He probably even showed you exactly how and where he will hold you, how to bend your knees, how to hold your breath, and to close your eyes. More than once he reassured you that everything will be fine and that he will be right there with you the whole time. He will feel love and your mother will feel love because they know how important tonight is.
As you stand there in the water, you may get a bit nervous. The long awaited time of your baptism is so close now. You’ve thought about it, talked about it, planned for it, and dreamed about it, but now that you are standing in the water, you may be just a bit unsure how this is all going to happen. Then your dad will grab your left arm and put it into his. Then, he will position your right arm in just the right place so that you can plug your nose. After your dad speaks some amazing words, you will – If you pay attention – notice that his hands are placed both in front of your chest leading you and behind your back supporting you. You will need this support because despite your nerves, he is going to bury you.
Your dad is going to bury you in the water. That means that the water will be completely covering you. Every single bit of you. There won’t even be a little piece of you that is allowed to breathe (two people will make sure of that!). You are left to trust your father, after all, he is the one that invited you down into the water and assured you that this would be for your own good.
Next, something amazing will happen while you are buried in that water. You, little man – get to die.
Death. A lot of people think it’s the end – but we know a secret, we know that death is only the beginning – or at least the beginning of something much better. Because, during your death, the short time that you are completely buried in the water, your awesome dad will still be holding on to you – with both hands, and I promise you, he will not let go. In fact, after what may seem like a long time, he will pull you right back up from that watery grave, and you will be a whole new man.
You may not notice it tonight, and you may not ever even think about it in the future, but I can promise you that there isn’t a single person in the room tonight that won’t have their eyes on you when you come out of that water – and you will look glorious to them. You will be a shining light of happiness, love, and innocence that makes everyone remember something and somewhere better.
Now, I want you to think of another father and son who had a very similar experience. Think of a father who talked about, practiced, and explained this same type of death to his son. The son, without having experienced baptism was a little nervous when the time came to walk down into the water. In fact, this son became “sore amazed” at the thought of being completely under all that deep, heavy, painful water.
Yet, just like you, he trusted his father, and knew that when his father would bury him under that water – he would die.
But, this son also knew that his father would still be holding on with both hands, leading him and supporting him and that after just enough time being dead, he would pull him right back up and he would be resurrected.
And, just like you tonight, when that father pulled that son up out of the water where he died, there were lots of eyes that were looking right at him, and he was glorious. He was (and still is) a shining light of love, happiness, joy, and perfection. He is Jesus Christ and he invites us all to keep looking at him, to keep our eyes on him, and to keep watching him and doing all the things that he does.
That father and that son are the perfect examples for all of us, and you little man, get to show them that you love them by following their example and getting baptized. I am so happy for you and for your family.
I know that you are making the right choice, and that Jesus Christ is real. I know that the scriptures are true, and that if we read them we will be happy.