1 : devoted to a cause, ideal, or purpose : zealous <a dedicated scholar>
2 : given over to a particular purpose <a dedicated Web server>
— ded·i·cat·ed·ly adverb
This morning was Juniper’s (as well as our dear little friend Ellie’s) dedication. I always think a baby dedication must sound like an odd sort of thing to the outside observer. Baptism is a much more culturally known ceremony (one our particular church reserves for later in life, when a person personally becomes a believer). A christening is likely to involve water, and perhaps evokes the concept of officially bestowing a name. The Jewish Bris for baby boys serves a set purpose… but what is this dedication thing?
Unlike other Christian ceremonies like baptism and communion, there is not really a Biblical precedent for dedicating a child. Hannah presented her son Samuel to the Lord in 1 Samuel 1 in fulfillment of a promise she had made to the Lord should He hear her pleas to end her years of barrenness. As soon as Samuel was weaned, she took him to the temple to live and serve the Lord, to be raised by others in the house of God for His own purposes.
That is, of course, not what we did with our daughter today. Lord willing, Juniper and her sisters will continue to live in our home under our care until they reach maturity, but we have nevertheless, in a very real sense, dedicated them to the Lord. We have recognized that each of our children is a gift from God, and that we are only stewards of them for a short while for His purposes. Ultimately, we must give them back to Him for whatever His will may be for them.
But every God-fearing parent knows all this, and having a ceremony to acknowledge it has no magical powers to make that process any easier.
In fact, what took place today was probably a lot more to do with Junie’s parents than with the star of the show herself. A dedication is a chance for us to reflect on the enormity of having a little life given into our nurture and care, to thank God for her, and to beseech our church family to pray for us as we carry out the task of training up a child in the fear and admonition of the Lord. As we dedicate her, we are also dedicating ourselves whole-heartedly to the fulfillment of our “high and holy calling” (as Pastor Wayne used to say) of parenting.
Sure, it’s a big day for her: a chance to wear the same beautiful dress her sisters have worn before her on their dedication days (thanks, Erin!). But the bigger day, the one we long for and pray for daily, still lies ahead: the day that she recognizes for herself that she is a sinner in deperate need of a savior and accepts Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as payment for her own sin. We cannot make that decision for her, but we entrust her into the hands of a faithful, loving, sovereign God.