A few months after our son was born, my wife and I participated in a parent-child dedication at church. It’s something my church does, modeled after the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel. Hannah was barren and had prayed that if God would bless her with a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord for all the days of his life. After she gave birth to Samuel, she returned to the temple to leave him in the care and training of Eli the priest, saying, “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” The dedication at church involved us recognizing that our son was a gift, assignment, and stewardship from God, committing ourselves to raising him according to Scripture, and our church family agreeing to help us and pray for us.
In my heart, I meant what I said during the dedication. At least I thought I did. Or maybe I should say that I meant it as far as I understood it at the time. It’s easy to say the words and mean them when you aren’t thinking about all the implications of them. At the time, I was envisioning teaching him to love and serve God above all else, being happy when he chose to use his gifts in ministry rather than to make money, etc.
It didn’t take long for God to start expanding my understanding of what it means to give my son to him. A few weeks after the dedication, I had to go on a 3-day trip for work. During the first day, I started getting phone calls and text messages from my wife saying that our son was having trouble breathing. It ended up being croup, and she eventually had to call 911. It was nerve-racking to say the least, especially since I couldn’t do anything for him.
Then a few weeks ago, we flew down to Louisiana to visit the church we’re moving to, leaving our son with my parents. He had been dealing with a stomach virus the few days before we left, but seemed to be improving. But once again, the first day we were gone, my mom had to call 911 because he was doing nothing but sleeping and she was having trouble rousing him. He ended up spending 2 nights in the hospital while they rehydrated him and checked out what was causing the diarrhea.
In the end, he was never in any real danger, and even going through it, our minds knew that it was something simple and that he was well taken care of. But as a parent, your mind immediately jumps to worst case scenarios. We also felt some guilt about him having to go through a hospitalization without us. Was he wondering where we were and why we weren’t with him?
But this is what we should have in mind when we dedicate our children to God. By recognizing that they are his, not ours, we are recognizing that he has the right to do with them what he wills. This could of course mean that they grow up and choose a life of service rather than wealth. But it could also mean that God takes him from us sooner than we expect because that is how their life will have the most impact.
As I sat in Louisiana knowing that my son was hospitalized 1300 miles away in New Jersey, I had to make a decision. Was I going to panic and worry (which wouldn’t do any good anyway) or was I going to trust that God knew what he was doing? Knowing that we had at least 4 different groups of believers praying for him and us made it easier to choose the latter.
I don’t like admitting it, but for all intents and purposes, I did not dedicate my son to God that Sunday morning in church when he was a few months old. I did it a few weekends ago in Louisiana, when really the only thing I could do was trust him into God’s care. And now I recognize that it’s really something that needs to take place on a daily basis. I need to tell God everyday that I trust my family into his care while I’m out doing what he has called me to do, praying as Hannah did, “the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord.”