All three of my children were just baptized, so I’ve been thinking a lot about their relationship with Jesus. (See Our Household Baptism.) After 14 years of parenting, “salvation” is a concept that I’ve come to see a different way. I’d like to elaborate by giving examples from the lives of each of my children. In this post, I’ll start with the story of my son Samuel. You can also read my stories about Abby and Lydia.
Samuel became a Christian a decade ago when he was four years old. As God orchestrated it, my husband Nathan was gone to Korea at the time that Sam really wanted to talk about the status of his relationship with Jesus. I know that it was God’s gift to me to get to be the one to talk and pray with him that night.
I felt certain in that moment that Samuel was a Christian, but I also instantly began to wonder what other people would think about his young age. I even wondered what I thought about his young age, because this wasn’t playing out like I’d pictured it. I’d heard and read some about the “age of accountability”. I’d heard people say they told their young kids they needed to wait and they weren’t ready yet to be a Christian. At that point, I still didn’t really know what I thought on the subject. But that night with my son, I found that there was no way as he was asking me questions and so eager for Jesus that I would have considered telling him “Wait. You’re not ready.”
However, it is because of our culture and the beliefs of some around us that he wasn’t baptized right away. The last thing we wanted to do was put him in a situation where someone else would question him, discount his experience or confuse him. We decided that we would give it some time. And then suddenly, a decade had come and gone, and Sam was able to share his baptism day with his younger sisters, which was pretty special.
Rather than try to decide what the “rules” are for becoming a Christian, I began to instead think about and consider this particular child that God gave us. From the time he was just months old, we would read him The Rhyme Bible Storybook. The difference between Sam and many kids is that at eight months old, instead of sitting for a story or two, he would sit for over half an hour through the entire book. My mom tried to tell me this wasn’t normal, but as a new mother I didn’t really understand that until much later. By a year and a half old, he could recite most of the book by heart as we turned the pages together.
You see, God’s truth has always been in and a part of Samuel. His heart is tender, and he was born into a household and extended family that has prayed over him and showed him who God is from the beginning. His mind is quick and developed seemingly ahead of schedule in many ways. Taking all that into account, I wasn’t surprised that he felt that desire and need for his own relationship with Jesus at the young age of four.
I realized that everything about our relationship with Christ is personal and individual, and that includes how he draws us to himself and shows us our own need for him. My children weren’t going to reach the same magical age that I could calculate where we would sit them down and walk them along the Romans Road and “seal the deal”. There are no rules or formulas for this.
I decided then that I would never tell one of my children that they couldn’t become a Christian yet. I just can’t imagine that God would respond in that way. Sure, at four years old, there were lots of things Sam didn’t understand. The same is going to be true at 8 years old, or 24, or 63. It is so much less about understanding and so much more about your heart turning to Jesus and recognizing your need for him. God meets us where we are. The decision to believe in Jesus and the way he rescued us from the punishment we deserve has to be a personal choice, but I believe there aren’t a lot of other requirements. He takes a willing heart and begins to slowly fill in the gaps in understanding over time, starting at whatever age you ask.