I love child dedication days at church.
These aren’t baptisms; they aren’t confirmations; at least in our faith traditions, these are commitments and promises. Parents stand in front of the congregation with their children, and those parents promise that they will raise their kids to know and love God’s Word and the gospel we find there. But it’s also a promise for the congregation to make back to the family – that as fellow members of the body of Christ, that they will also contribute as they are able to that child’s spiritual growth and understanding of the gospel.
It’s a beautiful thing. It’s a wonderful reminder of the fact that we are in this thing together.
And as a parent who has stood three times before a congregation like that, it’s an incredible encouragement to know there is a whole group of people who are in the thick of it with us.
A child dedication is all those things – but one thing it is not is a guarantee.
The parents might center their home on God’s Word; they might diligently do family devotions and raise their children in the midst of the things of God; they might model grace and truth as they raise that child; and the congregation might come faithfully alongside those parents to do the same. But even in the midst of all that, who can say what decisions that little boy or girl will make as they live their lives?
This is one of the reasons why parenting is, if nothing else, an exercise in faith. It is because a parent has to exercise and work hard at their faith as that child they love, treasure, and value goes out into the world of school, first jobs, first dates, driver’s licenses, and eventually out on their own. There are few things, at least in my experience, that are as painfully difficult to exercise faith in the middle of than parenting.
As parents, we want guarantees. We want formulas. We want a sure-fire, tried and true way to make absolutely sure that our kids will grow into mature, Jesus-loving, children of God. But we don’t have that, and if we think we do, we are mistaken. It’s a mistake to think that verses like Proverbs 22:6 is a promise:
Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.
This is a proverb; it’s not a promise, and it’s important we understand the difference. God is not offering here a formula here. He’s not promising that, if we really invest in the spiritual development of our children, that they will grow in their faith. Rather, proverbs like these describe the general way the world works. We don’t take a guarantee from this passage, but we do take all the encouragement in the world to train up our children in the way they should go.
If there was a formula? If there was a promise? If there was a guarantee? Well, if there were, we could anticipate God. But, parents, you can’t anticipate God; you can only trust Him.
How do we show, then, that we are trusting God? We are prayerful about the hearts of our kids. We teach and guard and discipline and train with the Bible at the center. We do our best to treat our children the way our Heavenly Father treats us. These are all tangible examples of our trust, for we do these things in faith. And, as with all things, we leave the results ultimately to Him.