On Good Friday, I heard about a legal case. A divorced couple battling. The wife had the couple’s child baptized. The husband, of the same faith, also wanted the child baptized, but not until later in life. So now the husband wants the wife jailed, and it looks as if she might be jailed for this.
We’ve all heard of cases where people of different faiths disagree on baptism and, while tragic, it shows the wisdom of a couple sharing a common faith. This is the epitome of a house divided, in my opinion, and I think of the sacrament of marriage and wonder how two become one when their fundamental spiritual beliefs are at odds. But that’s not the topic of this post.
The topic of this post is that news of this case broke on Good Friday, the day representative of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The irony in that shatters the heart.
When viewed from the father’s perspective, I see the agony of the choice. This is his child and his wishes should be considered and have equal weight, and he should have an equal say in the spiritual duties regarding his child. His wishes were known, and ignored by the mother.
From the mother’s perspective, I see the agony of the choice. Their child is a gift from God and it is her duty and responsibility to nurture and meet the needs of the child, which definitely includes the spiritual care. There are two divergent thoughts here. One, if she’s of the opinion that her child is protected in the way the Bible describes those who do not know the Law are protected, then having the child baptized without the father’s knowledge knowing his objection was for less than pure motives—to give back to God the child He gave her. If she’s of the opinion that the gates of Heaven are closed to all those who are not baptized, then I can see how she’d neither sleep a wink nor draw an easy breath until her child was baptized. I don’t know which is her school of thought, but whatever it is, it speaks to the purity of her motives.
Either way, the situation is a tragedy. That the father wants the mother of their child jailed. That the mother felt compelled to act over the father’s objection. That a secular court is being relied upon to resolve a spiritual matter. That the greatest victim in all of this is the child, whose parents are at war over the state of the child’s soul.
The bitterness of divorce, the depth of an individual’s beliefs, can be powerful motivating forces. When any human being is confronted with such a significant choice regarding his or herself, the confusion and challenges in making wise decisions is difficult. But when one is in that situation and the impact will rest on the shoulders of one’s child, the challenges become far more complex and far more difficult. Agonizing. Traumatizing. And that additional weight brings additional challenges to bear on the decisions.
These are weighty matters. And the conditions are not good ones for making wise choices. I wouldn’t dare to presume to judge either parent, for it’s all too easy as an objective outsider to imagine both positions. What goes through my mind most on this is a question: Why didn’t the parents jointly seek wise counsel?
The Bible explicitly tells us in Proverbs 1:4-6: “A wise man will hear and will increase learning, and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsel.” (KJV) Perhaps they did seek spiritual counseling on the matter of baptizing their child from church leaders. I don’t know. But it is doubtful that they did so jointly and arrived at an outcome that landed them in court with the threat of jail on the mother’s head.
I can’t believe this current situation is in the best interest of their child. I can’t believe it is in the best interest of the father, for surely bitterness and anger are driving his desire to see the mother of his child put in jail, or in the best interest of the mother, who is surely fearful of jail and of the care of her child during an incarceration.
And what of the child, who so easily could feel (and likely does feel) responsible for the war going on with the parents and confusion and upset and tension and fear. Kids do tend to take on these issues and deem themselves responsible though they are not.
There are no winners in this situation. Everyone loses . . but no one more so than the child.
Word of this came came about on the morning of Good Friday. I think of that from God’s perspective. This day, like that one, how His heart must ache.
Then, He knew what would come. He saw His son berated, beaten, lied to and lied about. He was fully aware of the abuse and the struggles, watched as Jesus carried His cross, fell and struggled to His feet; experienced fully each pound of the hammer nailed into His flesh. Above all, God fully understood what was happening, why it was happening and what it meant. He knew it all. Knew and watched and suffered the full-throated brunt of every bit of it, and because He did, without doubt, He suffered even more than did Christ.
We are imperfect people and imperfect parents. We love our children and want the best for them. Still we err. But God is perfect and loves His children with a depth and breadth we can’t completely conceive only glimpse. Imagine his agony, knowing Christ’s agony.
I think of that horrendous burden, and then of this child. I wish I could say, if in that family’s position, I would have been strong enough and wise enough to have sought wise counsel. But honestly, I think what would have been fixed so strongly in my mind is protecting the immortal soul of my child. Being sure that the child was in God’s hands, offered to Him and claimed by Him as His own.
It’s hard to say. None but that family can truly answer the question of what would be done in that situation. We can imagine, but even in imagining, we’re doing so from where we stand now. Not from where those family members stand. Only God knows all of the details of that for father, mother and child.
What I do know is that the wisest of counselors stood waiting. One who had endured a parent’s ultimate sacrifice and witnessed every moment of it, suffered every moment of it, and yet managed to still love unconditionally everyone involved in it. He lifted His son that day, carried Him, and I’m certain He carried this child and will continue to carry this child through these trials—and his mother and father.
Though surely weary and longing for comfort and rest and peace in their minds and hearts, I pray they have the clarity in judgment to seek His wise counsel. For I am wholly convinced that above all else that is in their child’s best interest . . . and in their own.
A reminder of how often child abuse is committed in the name of religion.