Jul 21, 2017

"Save the Life of My Child!"

By Leah Sherman

Though it never made the New York Times,
In the daily news the caption read:
“Save the life of my child!”
Cried the desperate mother.
Paul Simon, “Save the Life of my Child”



My husband and I have spent a lot time in cemeteries. They are solemn and quiet, and the headstones bear witness to the centuries of grief and sadness a community has experienced. Many of the headstones in the country cemeteries near us are old and worn, yet the names and dates of the deceased are still legible. One cemetery has an entire row of small white headstones, all bearing the same surname. The dates on these stones reveal that child after child born to this mother and father, died within days, months, or years. What tragedy!

While I have not experienced the loss of my own child, I have seen the tragedy it brings. I have woken in grief and terror many a night from dreams where my child dies just out of my arm’s reach. I have watched grown men cry as they held my babe, remembering a son’s infancy, and recalling his untimely death. I have mourned with mothers who have suffered miscarriages, and whose children have died hours after birth.

The loss of a child is devastating.

Charles Dickens, in his book, Bleak House, meditates on this loss through the characters of Ada and Esther. Upon entering the home of a poor woman, they find her cradling a sick child. Ada reaches for the child, and Esther sees that it has died. Ada weeps, “The suffering, quiet, pretty little thing! I am so sorry for it. I am so sorry for the mother. I never saw a sight so pitiful as this before! Oh, baby, baby!” Esther takes the child, arranges it to make its rest gentler, and covers it with her handkerchief. The mother weeps on.

The loss of a child is devastating.

This is why, as folk singer and songwriter Paul Simon points out so poignantly in“Save the Life of My Child!” parents plead desperately for their child’s life to be saved, and often are willing to go to extreme lengths to preserve a life.  Yet, as the cemeteries prove, these measures often fail. The death of children is a reality for many parents today, just as it was for many parents centuries ago.  

In what, then, do Christian parents hope when disease, disaster, or genetic disorder threaten their child’s life? Medical procedures, experimental drugs, and doctors’ recommendations are full of jargon and success rates and risk. When parents have exhausted all options, whether medically, financially, or legally, and the child is going to die, what are they to do?

Scripture reveals to us that death is not the final reality. Indeed, Scripture implores parents to take an extraordinary measure to ensure that their child’s life will be preserved. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,” (Mt. 19:14) our Savior calls.  “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” (Mt 28:19) our Savior commands. When death threatens, Christian parents run to the font.

Baptism saves the life of a child. Christian parents baptize their children in the hope of eternal life, not earthly life. While Baptism certainly brings the fruits of the Spirit into a child’s life and equips him for earthly living, Baptism also brings the seal of salvation, the promise of resurrection, and the life everlasting. This is why we baptize: so that whoever is baptized in Christ is buried with him by Baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, he too might walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).

Parents facing the death of a child look to Christ and the promises sealed for the child in his Baptism. They walk through the cemetery knowing that some day, Christ will return, and the body of their infant will be raised to life immortal. In Bleak House, Esther and Ada understood this, and while the dear mother was weeping, comforted her in their Christian manner,  whispering to her the promises the Savior had made, and how he had loved even the children. “For to such belong the kingdom of heaven,” (Mt. 19:14b) Christ promised.

The loss of a child is devastating, but for those whose salvation is secured in Christ through Baptism, we do not grieve as others do who have no hope. “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thess. 4:14). Baptism saves the life of a child.


***

Leah Sherman is a pastor's wife and homeschooling mother.  She and her husband have struggled with secondary infertility, but are constantly reminded of God's great blessings through their son. She lives in Gordon, Nebraska, and enjoys reading, gardening, and sewing.


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