It’s been four weeks now since dad passed away.
It was on a Thursday. The Sunday before he died was a milestone moment in my life I may never forget.
Dad lived a hard life – drank, swore, mismanaged money. In other words, he wasn’t perfect. Because he set the standard so high for himself, he never saw himself of worthy of God‘s unrelenting grace and prodigal love.
That Sunday morning, the doctor told him flat out, he wasn’t going to get better. They could pump oxygen into his lungs all day long, but they had lived their life. The lungs would no longer move the air and move the ogygen into his blood stream.
“You mean this is the way the rest of my life is going to be? he asked.
“We don’t know how long,” the doctor said.
I think it was at that moment Dad knew the only person who could help him was Jesus.
Many of us who cared about him had tried to impose salvation on him over the years. I now know salvation is not imposed. It is received. And it can be received only when God the Father draws you to Him and you say “yes.”
That day, Daddy said “yes,” and he wanted to be baptized as a public profession of his newfound faith.
Dad never really went to church and as good fortune would have it, the pastor of a local church attended by some of my family members had befriended dad in the hospital paying him almost daily visits in the next to last week before he died. Daddy liked the guy and he had good heartfelt conversations with him.
So upon Daddy’s request for baptism, they called the guy. There was an urgency in the call. Any breath could have been Dad’s last. Not that the baptism made his salvation any more secure. He just wanted to do it, and we wanted him to have it.
So the pastor showed up, was advised of my Dad’s request and the joy of our dad’s salvation took a disappointing turn.
A half dozen IV’s were hooked up to Daddy’s arms. He could hardly move. His breath was short — and unfortunately for him there wasn’t a river nearby.
The pastor believed baptism could only be conducted by full immersion, and the situation and facilities just didn’t allow that.
“So would you consider another alternative … sprinking, pouring of water?”
That’s the only way he could conduct a baptism, he said. That’s what he believed.
Let me try to recap and sum this up in a paragraph.
A 71-year-old man who had lived like Hell up to this point in his life and whose last breath could come at any moment had just asked the God of all Creation to come into his life and he wanted to celebrate with his family with a baptism.
But the preacher said no. That was not the doctrine in which he believed.
I thought about Jesus. What would Jesus do?
On the Sabbath, Jesus told the man to pick up his mat and walk.
Later in His journey, Jesus told a woman who should have been stoned “to go and sin no more.”
Did Jesus care if every square inch of Dad’s skin was immersed, or if water was just poured over his head?
I’d like to think not.
Weeks later, I’m still shaking my head, trying hard to forgive, and to move on.