A Letter to Our Son on the Occasion of His Baptism

 Hugh’s baptism on August 16, 2016 at Church of the Good Shepherd, United Methodist, in Arcadia, California.

Hugh’s baptism on August 16, 2016 at Church of the Good Shepherd, United Methodist, in Arcadia, California.

My husband and I wrote this letter to our son and read it to him at his baptism in August of 2016 in the presence of our church community. He was six weeks old at the time.

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Dear Hugh, 

I want to tell you about the world you have been born into, a world you have scarcely seen and you did not choose.

It is world of much pain and sorrow—a world filled with the terror of violence and war, the exploitation of the earth and its people and the ever-present sins of greed, self-centeredness and exclusion.

We are in a country where the people increasingly distrust their leaders, where long-simmering tensions of race and class have so recently and publicly been brought before our eyes.

This is a world and a country that so desperately needs Christ's message of healing, acceptance and love, though our own church feels itself to be only voice in the narrowing margins of the wilderness.

So many today ask: why have children at all? Why choose to bring another helpless being into this crowded, suffering world? Why create a life that does not yet even know the words to ask to be born where there is no promise of safe passage, no guarantee of peace, no way to assure what all parents want: that no harm might come to you and that your life might be better than our own?

Even with these questions, our hearts still longed for you—longed for you to see that this world, despite its suffering, is a world filled with laughter, beauty and love, a world filled more with the spirit than eyes can see.

Our deliberate decision to have you has given us the clarity to see the truth of what the church has always promised: that the propensity to fear all there is to fear in this world will always retreat in the face of hope.

We hope that when you are grown, the violence of today will live only in the memory of its survivors. That divisions here and abroad may be healed. That a spirit of acceptance and cooperation will rule. That the soil of the earth will provide for all and its waters will run clean. We pray for this great unrealized future, perhaps hope against hope for it. May you find it in your life, even usher it into being, and grant it to your children and grandchildren when we are long gone.

This is why we baptize you today. Our Christian story is one of hope and our Christian calling is to live out that hope. We live out our hope with God's most essential commandment: to love. To give and receive love with gratitude. This is our simple and yet most difficult task. It is our highest calling and source of joy. 

With your baptism, we initiate you to the Christian family, filled with billions of people both living and past, to join us on this journey. You will never walk on this path alone.

God bless you, our child. God bless this life you have been given. And God bless us, our families and this community as we raise you to become whoever it is that God has meant for you to be.

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This essay was also published on Medium here.