Friday, December 3, 2010

The Hurting and Discarded

It has been far too long since I engaged in the rhythmic cadence of placing thought to word through my keyboard. Many, many things have transpired in the past four months, some good, some not. Through it all, regardless of highs, lows, exhilaration, or crisis one powerful truth remains. God is so good, so loving, and so merciful and so constant.

Why wait so long before taking up the pen (or keyboard)? I can only describe my walk and my journey these past months as one who has enjoyed the warm sunlight and surface of the shallows of a crystal blue paradise and then through circumstance, response, and self-action has dove inward into murky grey depths where little light and little warmth penetrates. Though at times I have not walked where I should or followed what I know to be the path God has for me, like a safety line that a diver of great depths relies on for orientation and their very life, He has always been one glance away, one uttered prayer near, constant, anchored, unmoving and pointing to His higher purpose for my life, His protection from the storms that have assailed us.

What is truly marvelous in all of our lives is that we cannot run from this God, this loving Father. As David said in Psalms, where can we go? If we go to the mountain top He is there. If we go to the valley, He is there. The sky proclaims His majesty, the ocean depths His mystery. Even if we walk through hell - He is there. Jesus' redemptive work at the cross was THAT powerful. So powerful, the only escaping His presence is His ultimate sacrifice of love - our will. Even still, as long as we draw breath, He will wait as a gentleman, one prayer away, one "help me" from intervention.

What is also amazing is that to Him, we are not mistakes He has to clean up after. We are not souls roaming His creation that He continually has to enact plan B, plan C, on out to infinity because we keep messing up His intent. In Jeremiah 29:11 He states that He knows the plans He has for our lives, the very purpose for our treading this soil at this time in the history of this sphere. We cannot transgress so badly that He can't redeem our lives and utilize us to His planned purpose, and these are plans that He laid out before the first plant grew or the first animal drew breath.

Look at what Galatians 4 says:

“But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, "Papa! Father!" Doesn't that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you're also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.” Galatians 4:4-7 (MSG)

I love the statement in this translation "you are not a slave, but a child". Further, in Romans 8 we read:

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For the Spirit which you have now received is not a spirit of slavery to put you once more in bondage to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit producing sonship, in the bliss of which we cry, Abba (Father)! Father! The Spirit Himself thus testifies together with our own spirit, assuring us that we are children of God. And if we are His children, then we are His heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, sharing His inheritance with Him; only we must share His suffering if we are to share His glory.” Romans 8:14-17 (AMP)

How many of us hang our heads in shame, acting out the lie the enemy has sold us that we are dogs deserving to be kicked; that we should somehow have to make restitution for our lives mistakes before we can know the fullness of sonship? Look at what Ephesians says:

“How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. What pleasure he took in planning this! He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.” Ephesians 1:3-6 (MSG)

We see here scripture referencing our adoption as His children, and God doesn't engage in "foster parenting". We are sons and daughters of the King of Kings, Most Holy Lord of Lords, the very one immeasurably exalted above all heaven and earth and everything that was created, which includes every angel, every demon, every problem, every concern you might carry. He adopted us, and He planned to do so from the very start. And unlike so many adoptive homes where the adoptee is at a slightly lesser status than the birth children within the home, He has named us "joint-heirs" with His only Son.

This hits hard because it is the very reality my family is currently facing. My bride and I are in process of seeking adoption of a specific "special-needs" child. This little four year old boy has grabbed our hearts and what makes him "special" is the cognitive, emotional, and motor-skill delays imposed by severe neglect and abuse - a hurting heart and the resultant impact of a lack of love. I am learning so much through this process and have been continually astounded at the physical impact the absence of loving parents has had on this child. Through the process of engaging in foster licensing, court appointees, case reviews, and social workers, institutions I once considered a scourge and a necessary evil are now, to me, understood to be a necessary good in the face of evil in the absence of a work the body of Christ should have been doing all along.

In the early chapters of Acts, we read that orphan care and the care of widows was the province of the Church, not the state. Regardless of current politics and policies, the failure of the Church through the centuries has created the necessity of government interventions. Christ's love is not expressed in the administrative case review I just sat through. An explanation of God's love and grace is not given to the single mom as she picks up her welfare check. The government cannot duplicate or legislate the holy love that we as light bringers and salt on this earth are to be carrying out one to another.

This journey has already been marked by heartache and sacrifice, even though it feels as if we've barely scratched the surface. Family and friends have questioned our motives. People we assumed would be happy for us have, in some ways, acted like this is a funeral, a death of our known family as they were used to it. Deep emotional insecurities have surfaced in others as they have progressed from "oh that's a nice thing for people to do" to "What do you mean you are adopting?". We've had family tell us "You can barely take care of the kids you have".

This last statement cut deepest and we began to realize that adoption is God's answer to the hurting and discarded, because He never discards people. We also began to realize there is a very real enemy working against us in this and against this child in whichever ways are most effective, and so far those ways have been lies, misinformation, and directed statements of fellow believers - many people closest to us. This enemy seeks to devour and destroy lives. The more innocent the better. Where Jesus said "whoever harms one of these little ones" Satan seeks to do just that through he hands and mouths of people. Death and disease are effective, yes, but how much more devastating the effect of a child abused. With this, the enemy has snared one and statistically speaking, probably two people or more at once. In our case, division and strife now exist between family and our home. Something has been lost as we endeavor to obey in what we know God to be leading us toward - the rescue of one small soul.

Thanksgiving was difficult. No blood family attended our home. No stories were swapped recounting shared youthful experiences. No one freely loosened their belt to increase comfort during the football game or to squeeze in that last piece of pie. But God used the day and us to be a blessing. We were so blessed to have in our home several who might not have otherwise had a holiday experience. We were blessed to share a feast with those who did not regularly participate in this gathering that I have always taken for granted as a happy occasion of grouped family. My eyes were opened to the fact that this is not the case in many homes, and when one 15 year old told my son "this was the best Thanksgiving I've ever had" I was simultaneously pleased and saddened. This boy is an adoptee himself, living in a single parent home in which ties are strained with extended family. Further, mom and son are not the same "race" and even in our enlightened metropolitan culture, it is evident this has further created tensions.

As we enjoyed the food I recall looking around our large table, thankful to have been a part of blessing someone, bringing a smile and hopefully a good memory. But I was also humbled. I was humbled by the inadequacy of my life's efforts to reach those in need. Not everyone at that table was in need. But each of us were scarred in some manner. Each of us were there because we did not have the security of a stable and safe birth family environment to relax in that day.

I have too often overlooked my hurting brother and sister - and these are simply the people I know and interact with regularly. Yet here many of them were, banded together in our own "family", laughing, enjoying a meal, and sharing souls. God was in my home in a special way that day and this is His desire for us - for us to know his love of adoption, of reaching out to others and inviting them into our circle, of building others up when the devastation of words and actions is the norm for them. Adoption is not limited to bringing a child into your home. As adopted sons and daughters in Him, we also have a multitude of adopted brothers and sisters - all of them family in God's Kingdom. Through this journey I've discovered people of character and hearts of gold that do model God's selfless love and have been there to support us unconditionally. These people have been family when family has failed and I have been enlarged for the process.

The boy we are adopting has also taught me a thing or two about love, compassion, and grace. His hunger for love already has him calling me "daddy" and though he has behavioral challenges at times as a result of the tremendous upheaval he is experiencing, upheaval few of us will ever know, I see in his brown eyes hope for love, hope for protection, hope for a life of joy and security. I have vowed to provide that as his father, as best I can. I am so far removed from being that perfect parent and I am certain I have many challenges and "opportunities for growth" ahead. But I now know love towards one not of my bloodline and in my eyes, he is simply a son we did not birth, but a full son of my house none-the-less.

Finally, we need to remember this: regardless of the trials faced, those who have claimed Christ are all moving towards a feast of our own. At this feast will be a gathering beyond count. The Father will look over the banquet with infinite pleasure because His children are finally home, where He meant for them to be all along.

“We know that the whole creation of irrational creatures has been moaning together in the pains of labor until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves too, who have and enjoy the first fruits of the Holy Spirit, a foretaste of the blissful things to come, groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies from sensuality and the grave, which will reveal our adoption, our manifestation as God's sons.” Romans 8:22-23 (AMP)

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