Being part of God’s family is the best gift anyone could ask for. It’s the best gift anyone could receive. It not only gives us hope in things to come and the assurance that Jesus has overcome the world, but also gives us meaning and purpose in the present. I am certain that if I didn’t understand how much God loved me, my existence…my life…would look, feel, and play out (daily) a whole lot differently than it does. I am certain, because there were many years in my life, as a teen, adolescent and young adult, where I didn’t grasp the significance of God’s love. For all of us. I didn’t grasp God’s love for a Creation that was meant to be in harmony, but has unravelled into the messy state that we observe daily.
And those years weren’t very much fun, friends. Externally, things looked great. Good job, advanced degree, nice house, fun times. There were no rules, other than work hard and play hard. That seems to be the message the world is selling, right? Internally however, I was becoming increasingly restless with a world that didn’t seem to offer much more than superficial and fleeting joy. I was angry, confused, and unsure of who or where to turn for guidance.
And then, God adopted me.
Yes, I was born and raised in a Christian home. Yes, I had twelve consecutive years of Christian and religious education. Yes, I always believed in Jesus and yes, I always had faith. BUT, I had never fully grasped the meaning and intention of Jesus. I could tell you all about Jesus, but probably couldn’t tell you what that meant for me and my life here on earth.
But, God always knew me. It simply took me coming to a place of internal desperation, that led me to call out to God. I’m not sure what I expected to happen, but for the first time in my adult life, I heard God answer in a very real and very personal way. God invited me to be part of the family. I accepted. And so, a new journey began.
Which takes me to where I am going with all of this. This weekend in worship, the sermon was on Galatians 4. Tim preached a message centered on spiritual adoption and the idea that Jesus came to redeem those born under the law. Because no one other than Jesus himself was able to fulfill the law. The message was that Jesus came to adopt us, as sons and daughters of God. That God, with the love of a Father, understood all of our faults and shortcomings and misdeeds. And chose to love us anyway. Chose to invite us into the family, where we would be sheltered from the evil and hopelessness of the world through this baby born on Christmas day.
God chose to send Jesus to give us hope. We can all use hope, I believe. Big hope and small hope. After all, if there is no hope, what motivation does anyone have to continue?
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
As an illustration for spiritual adoption, our two Bigs and our oldest son’s best friend, J, (all adopted from Ethiopia) shared a tiny piece of their journey from orphan to chosen. The more I think about my son and his friend’s story…how two tween boys, living in an orphanage 8,000 miles away…praying that God would give them families, the more I see God’s hand all over the details.
Oh, and if possible God…could you please give us families close to each in America?
How the friendship and faith of these two children gave them hope when so much about then future was unknown. Would a family choose them? What would their future hold? Where is God in all of this mess and brokenness?
As these boys lived…scared and unsure…8,000 miles aways, God was also doing a work in two separate families back here in America. Families…who lived very close to each other. God was tapping on our hearts and calling us out of of comfort zones. Calling us to incarnate what is means to be part of God’s family. Calling us to be living displays of God’s hope, and asking us to trust that although we do not have all of the answers, God will be there. Every step of the way. It is truly a miracle to me that God used the broken, unfair, and unjust stories of these boys to bring our families together and weave a story that continues to write itself. We have been given a priceless gift of witnessing redemption. Daily.
When I asked our oldest daughter to share what she thinks adoption means to God, she said this:
I think adoption mean to God that this family adopt me. And God adopt this family. So, we are all part of the same family. God’s family.
I can’t think of a better way to articulation adoption, both physical and spiritual. And coming through the lips of a 13yo girl, who has been part of our earthly family for just eighteen short months, made the truth of God’s family come alive for me, once again.
Finally, after sharing their testimony at one of our three worship services, this man (pictured below), in his upper seventies, came up with tears streaming down his face. He embraced our children, hugged them and told them he understood. He, too, spent his childhood in an orphanage, but unlike them, he said, “I never left the orphanage.” “I understand,” he said. “I understand.” His tears were real and his pain shined through. A man, resembling a loving grandfather figure, with wounds, pains, and scars raw and leftover from a childhood that lacked hope, lacked safety, and lacked the love of a family. While our children had never met him before, as he was a guest of one of our members, simply attending church to witness a baptism, they hugged him and listened. They felt his pain. They, too, understood.
God clearly arranged this meeting and it reminded me that hope doesn’t mean we won’t have pain and suffering. Hope doesn’t mean that we will have all the answers or that things will make sense.
Hope means: Immanuel, God with us.
I asked this man if we could pray together and he accepted. I wanted to take away his pain. Those memories and hurts and horrible things that had happened. But of course, I cannot do that.
All we are able to do is invite and welcome and incarnate what God’s family looks like.
Where brokenness and hurt and misdoings and answered prayers and hope forge together to remind us that Jesus came to create beauty from the ashes.
“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.” –Isaiah 61:3