Last Sunday was one of those days I anticipated, but didn't quite know how to prepare myself emotionally for it.
Our church regularly has baby dedications, in which the parents bring their little babes (dressed to the hilt, I might add) up in front of the congregation as a public way of giving their child over to God and asking the church to keep the parents accountable and supported. Well, Ben and I were asked if we wanted to be a part of it.
We weren't sure at first, because (as I think I had mentioned in Carter's birth story) our pastor had actually led us in dedicating our son to God in the hour after he was born. Right there in the delivery room, with our family members, close friends, and probably a few nurses gathered around us, Pastor Steve read Scripture and led us in a prayer of dedication, helping us hand over our Carter Benjamin to God.
While this image seems quite heavy, I have to admit that I felt God's presence more in that delivery room than I have in any church, cathedral, or religious site. I don't say this lightly, but I honestly believe God made that hospital room, with all its beeping machines and monitoring equipment, holy ground for those of us who were blessed to be there.
Carter's dedication was so sacred to us.
So when our church asked if we wanted to take part in the baby dedication, we were filled with uncertainty. What could possibly "trump" the dedication experience we had in the hospital? In our minds, we had already given Carter's life and our rights over to God, so why would we need to do that again? Would we just be drawing unnecessary attention to ourselves? Did we have the strength to stand up with the parents who had babies in their arms and not fall to pieces? We didn't want to bring a cloud of sadness over what was supposed to be a happy occasion for these other parents.
These questions and concerns filled our minds, but our pastors had a clear vision of how they wanted to incorporate us and Carter's story into the baby dedication, without trying to "rededicate" him in any way. As it turned out, the pastors wanted to first of all share about his dedication and also make it an opportunity for the church to do its part in child dedication: to keep us accountable and support us as parents.
So on Sunday morning, March 6, in front of our church family at College Wesleyan Church, Pastor Steve shared briefly about our child who had been dedicated to God but that the dedication was unable to take place at the church building due to Carter's short life. He and Pastor Jil (our children's pastor) handed us a red, unopened rose not only to commemorate the dedication but also to symbolize that Carter's life (much like that rose) would open up not in this world, but in a heavenly one. Then, we along with the other parents who were up front dedicating their babies to God shared a time of prayer, led by Pastor Steve.
Looking back upon this experience, I'm glad we did it. I was very anxious about it all Sunday morning, not knowing how I might feel when it was actually taking place. But, just like He has all along, God showed up and gave us the strength to do it and the eyes to see past our own painful world into an unseen one to which we dedicated our son. Carter now sees this other heavenly world with completely unhindered vision. In fact, that is the only world Carter has ever seen since he never opened his eyes during his time with us. That's strangely comforting to me.
While the church dedication service had difficult moments for us emotionally, we were honored to stand beside the other parents with their babies. Their joy did not increase our pain, because we would never wish our circumstances on anyone else. Moments like that one just remind us of our loss. But by hearing Pastor Steve share about Carter's dedication in the hospital, we were also reminded of our joy, of that sacred, holy time we spent with our son in the presence of God before He took Carter up in His arms.
We were glad to share with our local church family (and the greater worldwide Church) how we dedicated Carter to God, so that as we move forward in this life, we can continue to be held accountable to live in God's presence, just like we were in that delivery room. Even now, I invite you to be a part of Carter's life by helping us to be parents to him the only way we know how: by being his voice in this world. Please pray also as we continue to parent our son Cohen (now 18 months old), and ask God to give us the strength and wisdom to daily surrender our rights as parents and to give both our sons to God.