Child Dedication

Child Dedication: An evangelical alternative to infant baptism in which parents stand before the church and commit to raising their child, with the help of others, in the ways of the Lord.

We are having the little one dedicated on Sunday.

He is seven months old now. I can still remember his so-small days, just home from the hospital, when he would curl into my neck like a comma.

Now he sits strong and tall, reaches fast and far to grab what he wants. He will be crawling soon, every day growing into his own person.

I know how the dedication will go, because we did it with Dane when he was this age. I will wear a skirt; I will curl my hair. I will make him wear his collared onesie.

We will stand on the stage of our church’s sanctuary in front of some friends, some family, mostly people we still don’t know, because it takes years of Sundays for this building to begin to feel like your building, these people your people.

The pastor will phrase things in ways that make me cringe, but I will try not to be obvious about it. He will ask us things like “Do you hereby promise to raise your child up in the Lord? If so, say ‘We do.’”

I will say it, say, “We do,” along with Andrew, like you’re supposed to. But what I am really saying is this:

I will let you squish your fingers in the mud, rub it all over your clothes. I will try to explain how God formed Adam, straight from the earth.

When you are a little bit older, we will wear plastic caps and funnel rice into bags for the hungry, find Darfur on the map. We will buy toys, and it will be so hard to give them away to a family in need, but when you do, you will begin to understand, dear one, the joy of loving others.

I will say the wrong thing every time. I have baggage that I don’t even know about, and it will affect the mother I am. I will lose my patience, yell angry words when I should speak love. I will press you when you don’t want to talk; I will embarrass you in front of your friends.

But I will try. I will do my best not to give you pat answers. I will try not to make God small so that he is easier for all of us to manage. I will go camping, even though I hate camping, just so we can lie in the grass and look up at the great mysterious sky with all its stars.

You are part of a Great Tradition of those who have tried to know what is to live in Light of God’s love. You will go your own way. There may be a time when you will need to find yourself apart from this, and that’s okay. We will be here still, this community of the broken and beloved.

It is Child Dedication Sunday. We say we are “dedicating you to the Lord,” but really, we are saying, We are here, saying, This is your home.

We are holding you in our midst, saying, Grow in the strength of this love; live free in the light of this truth.

15 thoughts on “Child Dedication

  1. I’m not a big fan of child dedications, even tho we’ve done both of ours and I wrote songs for each one of them that are theirs and theirs alone. To some, it’s definitely a sacred ritual that apparently guarantees some type of spiritual success in being a parent. I can’t buy it, really, but God was big on the Israelites doing special things with their kids on certain days, so maybe He sees value in it that I don’t.

    1. Very cool that you wrote songs for your kids. I think that’s a really special way to mark the occasion and to communicate that they are precious to you. Go Bernard!

  2. So true! I have looked at dedication as a statement and a request.To state your faith and to request the support and encouragement of those in the church to help you to raise the little ones to know Jesus. Luckily I have been blessed with awesome friends within our church who do help me and encourage me when I may be doing a less than perfect job as a “Godly” mother. To me dedication is less about what standard I am agreeing to be as a parent and it is more of a way of telling God you are willing to trust Him to help you through this parenting thing and allow him to work through His body to do so.

    1. Lovely. Yes, trusting God–particularly with something as precious as your children–can only be done, in my opinion, in the context of community.

  3. So my heart resonates with so much of what you said… I love your authenticity… I am so blown away by your perspective Addie. Its weird to grow up close enough with someone that you feel like you know them, but the reality is, you don’t really know them at all. You are my cousin… I should know you, but the truth is, I have learned more about who you really are in this blog than the countless times we sat together at that nasty white picnic table in front of Grandpa and Grandma’s house. I love it, its so cool to hear your heart.

    I love child dedications, I think they are a rare opportunity for authentic moments if you take advantage of them in the right ways. Every dedication I ever do, I always make the statement,

    “It’s not if you mess up your kids, it how bad, and in what ways.”

    I think most people fell the weight of parenting, understand how hard it is, and understand they have no shot at doing it perfect. What is perfect anyway?

    It should really be called “Parent dedication,” its more about the parents choice to surrender their child to the Lord than anything else. It’s more about choosing to live out this God-given role, a role you are in no way prepared for, and simply trust God to be what you need Him to be.

    The best parents are the one’s that can yell at their kids and then go back to them and ask for forgiveness, admit they were wrong, and ask their 4 year old to pray for their heart. The most powerful moments of learning for my kids is when I am admitting to them that I messed up, that I am not perfect, and that I need their help to be the man God has called me to be. It’s hard, but so good.

    Anyway, just my thoughts… you’re awesome Addie! Your kids are lucky to have a mother that is so committed to self-sacrifice, authenticity and surrender.

    Jake

    1. Wish you could have been the one to do our kids’ dedications. How cool would that have been?

  4. oh man.

    this is a beautiful piece.
    it’s beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing your heart, thoughts, wisdom, and talent here. As the sibling that can’t write, you will have to do your best to understand me when I wholeheartedly say, you are awesome!

    Erik

  5. That was really beautiful. I’m forwarding it on to my friends with little ones and little ones incoming. 🙂

    Infant dedications are always a bit weird for me, too. Now that I can’t really work in the nursery or in Sunday school (chronic pain issues), I feel kind of like a liar when I say I will be their nursery worker or Sunday school teacher because I won’t. I probably won’t have any contact with most of them except at special events where I volunteer to help out. I will never really have a chance to talk with them about what’s important, to do good with them. That makes me sad.

    But I, too, will strive to be someone who does not brush off the children I do come into contact with with pat answers. I will strive to show them how vast God is. I will help them seek if they come to me. In that way, I hope to help.

    Thank you for inspiring me. I will have much to think about at the next dedication.

    1. Thank you so much for that. I’m so sorry to hear about your chronic pain issues! That said, I definitely don’t think that Sunday school teaching is the only (or even most important way, necessarily) to be involved in kids’ lives or to speak truth and love into their hearts.

      I think that your kindness and gentleness will be a source of comfort and hope to the many children who cross your path.

  6. At our church, our favorite blessing occasion is the dedication of children to the Lord. Parents bring their child to the platform and we are all reminded again what a precious and fragile gift a child is. The parents pray first, publicly committing their child to the Lord with a written prayer I give them. Then I pray, taking the baby in my arms or putting my hand upon the child’s forehead and dedicating him or her to God. But our favorite part comes after that.
    Years ago I heard this idea from another church. While someone sings or plays—a lullaby perhaps—I carry the child down the aisles, row by row, from side to side, and the people one by one, bless that precious little one. They reach far to touch his foot. “God bless you, David,” they whisper. Hands gently touch her forehead. “God be with you, Lauryn.” I see lips move and their benedictions are so sweet I often have tears in my eyes. I don’t get to everyone, of course, but there is no other time quite like it in our church. The parents watch in wonder from the platform. They’ve warned me, many of them, that their baby might cry, and I promise that I’ll bring him back to them if he does. But, amazingly, I do not remember that ever happening since I started doing this some 20 years ago. There’s no particular reason I would need to be the one who carries this child through the congregation, and when we have several little ones, others share the privilege. But I wouldn’t miss it for the world and I think it is very important to the parents that their pastor does this.

    1. I love that!

      It was pretty anticlimactic with Liam. There were too many couples doing it, so the pastor did one blanket dedication. It felt impersonal and rushed, and I feel sort of sad about it. Not the first time I’ve wished we went to a smaller church.

  7. We had our baby dedications (two), in our home with our family saying prayers over our kids. It was super cool. Grandpa was the pastor, so we got that sweet pastoral prayer, as well.

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