Recently while traveling, Terry and I worshiped at a congregation of our church body. That’s a common practice for us when we’re away from home. That Sunday morning we experienced something that’s not very common at all: the public baptism of an unwed mother’s child.
We later learned that this young lady of 17 had left home at 16, had become pregnant and had subsequently returned home. After giving birth to her baby, with support from her family and pastor she decided to have her baby baptized on Sunday morning in a public worship service rather than in a private service at a different day and time.
As I watched this young lady, who is younger than both of our university student grandchildren, I wondered what her life as a very young single mother would be like in the years ahead. How does a teenaged mother support herself and her child? How does she deal with the judgmental attitude of friends and acquaintances? How does she pick up the pieces of a broken heart and spirit most likely resulting from a severed relationship with the father of her newborn child?
I know of other similar situations where the parents of a young unwed mother have openly embraced their daughter and her child, lovingly providing emotional, financial and spiritual support for both. While acknowledging the moral mistake that led to the reality they faced, they wisely knew that to forsake or abandon their daughter and grandchild would essentially constitute responding to one wrongful act with wrongful acts of their own. Thankfully for all concerned, they chose to emulate the actions of the father of the prodigal son in Holy Scripture and to receive mother and child with open arms and forgiving heart.
What struck me most about our experience that Sunday morning was the courage of the young mother to request the baptism of her child in a public, rather than private, worship service. That decision was particularly poignant in light of the fact that years ago young women in identical situations were required to endure the shame of personally standing before their Christian congregation, embarrassingly admitting their sin and receiving public chastisement for their wrongdoing before, at least in some cases, obtaining corporate forgiveness.
The young mother we saw had received forgiveness from pastor and parents. With their support she made the right decision not to terminate her pregnancy but to give birth to the life within her womb. She then chose to bring her baby to the waters of holy baptism in a public worship service.
There, in the presence of her fellow Christians, she quietly yet openly demonstrated a truth all of us would do well to remember and replicate. When we sin, which we do every day, we ask for and receive God’s forgiveness. Then we move forward in life, doing everything we can as forgiven children of God to transform the result of sin into a manifestation of the grace of God within us.
Terry and I were powerfully blessed by this young lady’s example of doing just that!