For over twenty-five years, I’ve been an attorney. Arguing was a big part of my job. Granted, we attorneys dress up our arguments with flowery language. We lay them out in poetic prose. We even give written arguments cute nicknames like “Petitions” – “pleading” our case – or “Motions” – “moving” the court to see things our way.
Sometimes, my prayers to God resemble a legal argument more than a heartfelt plea. I tend to throw decorum aside. I just go barging into God’s office “pleading” my case or “moving” Him to see things my way. (For the record, I’ve never barged into a judge’s chambers.)
A few Sundays ago, I kinda pulled that “barging in” thing. As my husband and I sat in services at our local church, the sermon had come to a close. The pastor announced that it was time for a baptism.
Before beginning the actual baptism, the pastor explained how baptism is one of those things that divide Christians. What age do you baptize? Is baptism required for salvation? Do you have to be dunked or is it sufficient to pour a little water over one’s head? What words make it count? Does the “baptizee” have to give a response? Can someone – like parents and godparents – act on behalf of a minor under these circumstances? Seriously, these are the kinds of questions that divide denominations over baptism.
The pastor’s words were gentle and carefully chosen so as not to exacerbate the existing divisions. Yet, he was firm that this particular church didn’t acknowledge infant baptisms. They believe that baptism must came after some age of reason when one can choose baptism on one’s own. In keeping with the tenets of this church, the young girl being baptized on this particular day was probably in her late teens or early twenties.
Now, I grew up Roman Catholic. I was baptized at the ripe old age of eight – days, that is. Yes – barely a week old. Both of my girls were baptized as babies. They were baptized “late” (a few months old) due to family schedules. The delays in their baptisms was so much to the chagrin of my parish priest that he instructed me as to how to perform an emergency baptism.
Despite the pastor’s soft tone, my synapses started firing. In the fashion of a true litigator, I began to argue the finer points of baptism with God. Infant baptism counts. No one can take that away from my girls or me. Or any of the other millions of people who have been baptized at birth. We are Yours -forever.We are marked. It can’t be removed. It’s permanent.
As an attorney, other than perhaps “I find you in contempt of court” (which thankfully I never heard directed at me), there no words from a judge that should shut an attorney’s mouth more quickly than “Motion Granted.” Most of the time, judges know the case and your points before you stand to make your argument. When they do, they will sometimes cut you off mid-argument. “Motion Granted.” That means argument decided. That means the judge has sided with me. That means no more arguing about that subject.
As the ultimate Judge, God knows the deeper concerns of ours heart before we can even form the thoughts. He knows our “case” better than even we can ever know it.
On this particular Sunday, He read between the lines of my argument. He knew that I didn’t really care so much about the finer points of baptism that divide great theologians. I just wanted reassurance. I wanted a reminder that it is all going to be okay. I wanted Him to take my anxiety. I wanted to know that my baby girl – my Brooke – is safe in His arms.
As I continued making my internal case, I glanced up at the screen hanging above the stage just behind where the band was set up. Nothing flashy. No over stylized fonts. No busy backgrounds. Just two simple words in blue on a plain screen – “Erin Brooke.”
The young lady choosing baptism that day was named “Erin Brooke.”
My Brooke’s middle name is “Erin.”
Heavenly Father, thank you for hearing the desperate pleas of our hearts even when we have trouble putting them to words. Thank you for indulging our spiritual “motions” for reassurance even when You’ve already assured us “Be not afraid.” Thank you for sending your Spirit to counsel us through life’s trials. Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to serve the sentence that we each deserve.
Reinforce our faith that we might testify of how You have moved in our lives even when you tell us “Motion Denied.”