So in all fairness, I know what the C in YMCA stands for. I do, really. But I was completely blown away when Bryan went to pick up Tony from the YMCA summer program and the counselor met Bryan, grabbed his hands, and was overcome with excitement as she shared the news that one of Tony’s counselors had convinced Tony to take Jesus into his heart. And she would love for us to consider him being baptized in their pool.
Bryan, stunned, stammered, “I think I need to talk to Sarah about this.”
I can’t talk about Bryan’s religious beliefs – they are not mine, and he’s traveled his own journey and come to his own conclusions. But I can talk about mine. I believe that there is a higher power and a delicate balance of good and evil, but mostly that there is innate good in people. I am far from a fire and brimstone kind of person, and I typically feel that most organized religions are too a la carte for me. (We take THIS part seriously, but don’t read THAT chapter, because it doesn’t fit our current ideology. But THIS part is literal and we believe it, even though THAT part doesn’t have relevance in our church.)
That said, I can tell you that Bryan was a little surprised that this was happening at our community summer camp.
I was getting ready for our show that night and Tony came in to talk to me about it. Tony, I’ll remind you, is my most sensitive child. He is my heart, in another body. He wants to see the best in people and wants everyone to feel loved. He’s a firm believer in happy endings and he is the child who will see a rainbow after the storm.
Tony sat down next to me on the bed, and handed over a well-worn, obviously second-hand Bible. “I got this book today,” he said. “I’m on page 2.”
Page 2, I said. Did they just tell you to start reading this?
“Yep. And I’m on page 2. These words are really hard, Mom.”
These words are hard for grown-ups too, bud. What is this book about, so far?
“This book is what you have to read to get into Heaven. I’m gonna try really hard to read it.”
What about kids who can’t read? I asked. How do they get into heaven?
“Huh. I don’t know. I hadn’t thought about that,” he said.
I’m sure this is a great book. We can talk more about that later. So what else happened today?
“I said this prayer to invite Jesus into my heart. Now I can’t die.”
“God made Jesus die. So now we don’t have to.”
At this point, I’m having to rationalize my answers. I’m not well educated in religious rhetoric, although Bryan is, so I had to base my reactions on what I thought to be true.
Well, bud. God didn’t kill Jesus. People killed Jesus.
“No, God did. So we can’t die.”
We will die, honey. We will all die. It’s part of life. I know that’s scary, but it’s not something to be afraid of. We all will die. Some people I love very much have died. It’s sad and I miss them very much, but I promise that they died and are gone.
“But what about the garden? Those people in the garden?”
I’m not sure I know that story – can you tell me?
“Yeah, there were these two people in a garden and they weren’t supposed to eat this one thing – something, but I can’t remember what – and then they did eat it as an accident and they got in trouble.”
Wait, it was an accident? Or did they know they weren’t supposed to eat it, but did it anyway?
“It had to have been an accident, Mom! Why would they eat it if they weren’t supposed to?”
And that is my boy. He is so good-hearted that he couldn’t even believe that Eve would willingly do something that would anger God.
So Bryan and I are confounded. If Tony’s interested in religion, I’m more than happy to explore that with him – but in ways that he can understand. And not “You can ONLY get into heaven THIS way” checklists, because I don’t believe in that. And as Bryan pointed out, we don’t want to put Tony in a very awful position of having parents who are not part of “the church” and worry about saving our souls.
But all of that aside – TO BE BAPTIZED IN THE YMCA POOL IS JUST WEIRD.
I am now open to any and all suggestions.